Brexit bites as Irish trade slumps

The CEO of the port of Dublin has said the impact of Brexit is now apparent as the port reported a 20% fall in trade with the UK.

As the port released its trade figures for January to September 2021, Eamonn O’Reilly, said he hoped the impact would be temporary.

“After nine months, the impact of Brexit on the profile of Dublin Port’s trade has become clear with volumes on unitised services to Great Britain declining by just over one-fifth while volumes on services to Continental Europe increased by more than a third,” he explained. “Because of this, our unitised volumes are now split 50/50 between GB ports and ports in Continental Europe. Before Brexit, GB ports accounted for almost two-thirds.

“The movement of Irish trade to EU markets and away from the UK has also had the effect of reducing the number of trailers that move through Dublin Port which are driver-accompanied. Over the nine months, nearly 60,000 loads which would have been driver-accompanied before Brexit were shipped as unaccompanied trailers. This is bad news from a port capacity perspective.

“In addition, we have seen a much larger decline in gross tonnes in the unitised modes than we saw in the number of containers and trailers; 3.3% compared to 0.5%. Our interpretation of this is that the average size of a load in a container or trailer has reduced because operational efficiencies which the Single European Market had facilitated in trade with Britain have been removed because of Brexit.”

O’Reilly added: “The only positive thing we have seen since Brexit is that the much-feared congestion and delays as a result of border controls have not materialised.  The average number of physical inspections on trailers coming off ferries from Britain is less than three per sailing. However efficient the border inspections by State agencies are, some Ro-Ro operators are now opting to use Northern Irish ports instead of Dublin. We believe that this dislocation of trade to ports in Northern Ireland will be a permanent feature. The dislocation is a reversal of what happened in Dublin Port when the Single European Market came into being thirty years ago.

“The long-established year-on-year growth trend we have seen in Dublin Port has been disrupted by Brexit and by Covid-19. However, we believe that this is a temporary phenomenon and that the growth we are seeing in volumes on services to Continental European ports, will, by 2023, drive throughput volumes back to the record levels of 2019.”

The rise in the amount of cargo which is spending more time in the port has also impacted the ability for its use.

“In the meantime, the different patterns in UK trade compared to EU trade are creating capacity pinch points in some parts of the port and we currently have two shipping lines looking to commence services in Dublin which cannot be accommodated,” O’Reilly said. “To remove these capacity pinch points, we need to continue our capital investment programme to increase port capacity in the short-term.  This includes relocating the last four empty container depots from Dublin Port to Dublin Inland Port in order to free up six hectares of land for cargo handling.”

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