The iShip Index

The iShip Index
The iShip Index is a quarterly weighted indicator which gauges the health of the Irish maritime industry and the wider economy. Created by the Irish Maritime Development Office, the index is comprised of five separate indices, representing the main maritime traffic categories moving through ports in the State: Lo/Lo, Ro/Ro, Dry Bulk, Liquid Bulk & Break Bulk.  

The most recent iShip Index was released in February 2017 for the fourth quarter of 2016. It shows that shipping and port activity in the Republic of Ireland fell by 2% in the fourth quarter of 2016 when compared to the corresponding period of 2015.

However, the drop can be largely explained by a 7% contraction in Bulk traffic which was in turn driven by a 10% fall in Dry Bulk freight. On the contrary, unitised trade continued to rise steadily. Unitised trade is comprised of Lift-on Lift-off (Lo-Lo) and Roll-on Roll-off (Ro-Ro) traffic, and correlates heavily with Irish GDP levels.

Breaking down the figures:

Roll-on Roll-off (Ro-Ro) Traffic:

Over 80% of ROI Ro-Ro traffic moves between the United Kingdom (UK) and the Republic of Ireland (ROI). As such, together with Lo-Lo (containerised trade), these categories provide a good reflection as to the performance of trade between both economies.

In Q4 2016, Ro-Ro traffic in the ROI grew by 7% year on year, which was 0.5% greater than that forecasted by the IMDO. Specifically, Ro-Ro traffic between the ROI and the UK grew by 6%, while Ro-Ro traffic between ROI and Continental Europe saw a 10% rise against Q4 2015.

Lift-on Lift-off (Lo/Lo) Traffic:

In Q4 2016, laden Lo-Lo traffic in the ROI grew by 5% year on year. When taken from January to December, Laden Lo-Lo traffic has expanded by 6% compared to January – December 2015.

Laden Imports for the ROI grew by 4%. Laden Exports increased by 7%.

When Northern Irish ports are included, Laden Lo-Lo traffic growth remains at 5%. This figure was driven by Laden import growth of 3% for the island of Ireland, and laden export growth of 7%.


Total Bulk traffic for the ROI contracted by 7% in the 4th quarter of 2016. When Northern Irish ports are included, the contraction in total Bulk traffic for the island of Ireland was 4%.

As mentioned above, the 7% drop in ROI bulk traffic was driven primarily by a 10% drop-off in Dry Bulk traffic. This market segment was particularly affected by a decline in volumes of coal and animal feed, down 51% and 9% respectively.

Liquid bulk traffic in the ROI fell by 4% in Q4 2016, while ROI Break Bulk traffic saw 3% growth.

Offsetting some of drop in ROI Bulk, Northern Irish ports saw 6% growth in Total Bulk traffic in Q4, which meant that all island total bulk traffic saw only a 4% reduction.

Behind this was a 2% drop in all-island Liquid bulk and a 5% drop in all-island Dry Bulk. All-island break bulk however, saw 5% growth, driven by an 11% increase in Northern Ireland Break Bulk traffic.

The Central Bank in its most recent bulletin noted that to date, due to the absence of any weakening in the U.K economy, the impact on the Irish economy has been through the volatility of the euro/sterling exchange rate. Forecasted GDP growth remains positive. The Central Bank went on to say that while consumer sentiment (as measured by the ESRI consumer sentiment index) declined in Q4 2016, it has rebounded to its highest level since June 2016.


The below graph represents the iShip index for 2016:


The below graph represents the iShip index from Q1 2015 to present:


  Q3 2015 Q3 2016 %
(1) Lift-on/Lift-off 165,191 174,791 +6
: Laden Imports 96,915 101,619 +5
: Laden Exports 68,277 73,172 +7
(2) Roll-on/Roll-off: (Units)  254,106 267,782 +5
(3) Dry Bulk (Tonnes)  3,684,543 3,799,059 +3
(4) Liquid Bulk (Tonnes) 3,087,274 2,778,892 -10
: Excluding Transhipment:  2,883,478 2,743,095 -5
(5) Break Bulk (Tonnes)  338,673 363,226 +7

Technical Note:

  • The iShip Index is a weighted indicator comprised of five separate indices, representing the main maritime freight categories moving through Ports in the State: Lo/Lo, Ro/Ro, Dry Bulk, Liquid Bulk & Break Bulk.
  • The Lo/Lo Index is comprised solely of laden traffic.
  • As all three bulk segments are not traditionally measured in tonnage, Lo/Lo and Ro/Ro traffic have been converted into tonnage terms, enabling the index to be built from a common denominator.
  • The following ports have been included in the index: Port of Cork, Drogheda Port, Dublin Port, Dundalk Port, Dún Laoghaire Harbour, Galway Harbour, Greenore Port, New Ross Port, Rosslare-Europort, Shannon Foynes Port, Port of Waterford and Wicklow Port. Bantry Bay has been excluded as its throughput is predominantly of a transhipment nature.
  • All data is derived from the individual port companies and subject to a one-year revision period.
  • The base period is Quarter 1 2007 at which time all indices equal 1000.

Subscribe to the Irish Maritime Development Office's regular ezine, to keep up to date with the latest traffic figures & performance.

Past quarterly statistical bulletins can be accessed the press release section of our site.