Unitised Traffic Report Q1 2022
Roll/on – Roll/off (RoRo):
RoRo traffic in the first quarter of 2022 grew by 18% when compared to Q1 2021. This rise was expected, as a significant pre-Brexit stockpile, coupled with COVID-19 lockdown measures, suppressed traffic volumes in Q1 2021. When compared to Q1 2020, traffic is 4% higher in 2022. At 296,000 RoRo units, this is a robust performance for the sector that is in line with 2019 volumes, a year which recorded the highest annual total on record.
The increase this quarter was driven by traffic on ROI – GB routes, which rose by 22%. It was on GB routes where the pre-Brexit stockpiling effect in early 2021 was most concentrated. GB traffic through Dublin Port rose by 24% year-on-year, while GB traffic through Rosslare Europort rose by 4%. However, ROI – GB traffic remains approximately 20% below pre-Brexit levels, with no imminent sign of a rapid return to such levels.
ROI – EU RoRo traffic has held on to the remarkable gains made throughout 2021. ROI – EU traffic rose by 10% when compared to Q1 2021. Again, this was expected given the unusually low volumes recorded in early 2021. There were significant COVID-19 economic restrictions in place during that period. As with previous waves of economic restrictions in 2020, a decline in maritime traffic followed.
Elsewhere in the Irish RoRo market, it should be noted also that RoRo traffic at the Port of Cork is performing strongly, with the addition of two new services in 2021 now showing up in traffic handled. Overall, both ROI – GB and ROI – EU traffic have recorded volumes that are in line with those handled throughout 2021. As a result, the post-Brexit makeup of Irish RoRo traffic remains unaltered.
In Northern Ireland, RoRo traffic in Q1 2022 is in line with Q1 2021, recorded 0% growth. However, this is roughly 6% below the average quarterly volume recorded in Northern Irish ports throughout 2021, wherein record volumes were handled. The disruption caused by P&O ferries restructuring in March 2022 led to the loss of traffic at the port of Larne, and this explains much of this decline.
Lift/on – Lift/off (LoLo):
As highlighted in the latest volume of the Irish Maritime Transport Economist, LoLo traffic through Irish ports have also benefitted from post-Brexit demand for direct services to mainland Europe. Record volumes of LoLo TEUs were handled in 2021. In Q1 2022, LoLo traffic through ROI ports is 1% higher than the same period in 2021.
By pre-Brexit measures, the ROI volume of 284,058 TEU’s is a record-breaking total. The highest quarterly volume of LoLo traffic recorded before the end of the Brexit transition period was just over 280,000 TEUs. By post-Brexit measures however, this quarterly total represents a relatively subdued performance. The average quarterly volume of TEU’s recorded through ROI ports in 2021 was just over 293,000 TEU’s. The volume in Q1 2022 is 3% below this average. This is also the case for LoLo traffic at Northern Ireland ports. The post-Brexit quarterly average through Belfast Harbour and Warrenpoint was 64,500 TEU’s. The volume in Q1 2022 is 4% below this average.
This loss of momentum in LoLo traffic is reflective of the increasing cost of container freight rates, which has risen sharply since mid-2021. Charter rates for feeder containership vessels rose by a factor of six between Q1 2019 and Q1 2022. Such dramatic increases in freight rates were caused by a combination of port congestion at major hubs, disruption to the supply lines of new vessels, and changes in global consumption patterns since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When compared to Q1 2021, a period of significant travel restrictions, maritime passenger traffic in Q1 2022 rose by more than 200%. 210,000 passengers transited through Dublin, Cork and Rosslare on ferry services, almost 150,000 more than the same period in 2021. However, this remains 31%, or roughly 95,000 passengers, fewer than Q1 2019. The return to pre-pandemic passenger volumes has therefore yet to be reached.
In Northern Ireland, passenger volumes have made a full return to pre-pandemic levels. In Q1 2022 passenger numbers at Belfast and Larne were 102% higher than the same period in Q1 2021. They are now 35% higher than 2020, and 17% higher than Q1 2019.
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 RoRo volumes are measured in RoRo Units. LoLo volumes are measured in Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs). To combine both, each mode is converted to tonnes.
The Quarterly Reports act as a summary of Irish shipping activity over the past quarter. They are typically released a little over a month after a quarter finishes. Once the data is collected and our indices are updated, the percentage change between the current year and the previous year is calculated, and these trends are drafted and analysed.
There are five different categories that we include in our statistical analysis:
- Lift On/Lift Off (Lo/Lo)
- Roll On/Roll Off (Ro/Ro)
- Liquid Bulk
- Dry Bulk
- Break Bulk
Typically, the Lo/Lo figures exclude unladen tonnage and the liquid bulk figures are broken down into two categories; figures that include transhipments and figures that exclude transhipments. These figures are used to inform the shipping, maritime and ports industries and also to assist the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in decision making on government policy. The figures are also used in the Irish Maritime Development Office's annual publication, the Irish Maritime Transport Economist.
iShip Index: The iShip index is a volume index for all freight traffic moved to and from the Republic of Ireland. This does not include passengers and transhipment activity. More information on the iShip index can be accessed here. For more information visit the three main cargo sub-sections of the IMDO website.