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Brexit triggers a 'very weak' start to the year at Dublin Port as cargo volumes plunge

Trade with the UK declined by 29% while trade with other EU ports increased by nearly 18%.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE VOLUME OF goods flowing through Dublin Port declined significantly in the early months of 2021 because of Brexit, according to new figures from the Dublin Port Company.

Overall cargo volumes at the port declined by over 15% in the first quarter of the year compared with the same period in 2020, driven mainly by a decline in trade with Britain.

The volume of cargo travelling between Dublin and UK ports fell by 29% over the period to 160,000 units, the Dublin Port Company said this morning.

Trade with other EU ports, meanwhile, increased by nearly 18% in the first quarter to 158,000, suggesting Irish firms are abandoning the UK landbridge in order to trade directly with the continent. Other Irish firms are opting to transport goods to Britain via Northern Ireland.

Overall, imports fell by 14.4% to 4.7 million gross tonnes through the first quarter while exports via Dublin Port declined by 16.6% to 3.1 million gross tonnes.

Due to lower demand for transport as a result of the pandemic, bulk liquid imports of petroleum products also fell by nearly 25% in the first quarter compared to last year.

Commenting on the numbers, Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Port Company, said, “The first quarter of 2021 was very weak with overall cargo volumes back by 15.2% compared to the first quarter of 2020. 

“This is mainly because of Brexit. However, it is too early yet to say what the long-term effects of Brexit will be and whether the declines we have seen so far in 2021 will persist at the same level for the rest of the year.”

‘Dislocation’

O’Reilly described the “dislocation of a lot of volume to ports in Northern Ireland” as a “worrying” trend.

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“Back in 1990 before the Single European Market was established, more than a third of roll-on, roll-off trade chose services to and from Northern Irish ports rather than use services in and out of Dublin Port,” he added.

“We won’t get a proper sense until later in the year as to how much of the 29% decline we have seen in GB roll-on, roll-off trade is due to the new border regimes and whether this dislocation will be a permanent feature for the years ahead or not.”

However, O’Reilly said the increase in trade between Dublin and other EU ports is a positive development, which confirms that the company’s investment decisions in recent years “were correct”.

“It also shows the responsiveness of the shipping market to rapidly provide the capacity needed for the changes in demand patterns which Brexit has caused.”

O’Reilly said he expects “that the pivoting of trade from Great Britain to continental Europe will, in time, re-establish the long-term growth trends we have seen in Dublin Port for many decades”.

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