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.
The statistics for Quarter 4, 2016 were released on 8th February 2017. The latest iShip Index* 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.
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.
Note: All freight and passenger comparisons are done on a yearly basis (Q4 2015 v Q4 2016)
*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.