The volume of cargo passing through Dublin Port in the last three months of 2020 rose by 7.6% as pre-Brexit stockpiling, Christmas trading and a bounce caused by a relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions converted into higher demand for goods.
Across the year as a whole though, the volume of goods handled by the port fell 3.4%, caused mainly by Covid-19 disruption.
Nonetheless despite the challenges, the port recorded its third busiest year on record, moving 36.9 million gross tonnes of goods.
Just 2018 and 2019 saw larger volumes of goods transit through the facility.
Overall, imports for 2020 dropped 5% to 21.7 million tonnes and exports fell 0.9% to 15.2 million tonnes.
The first quarter saw a 4.9% decline compared to the same period in 2019, when Brexit stockpiling ahead of the original March 31 Brexit deadline of that year led to a strong performance.
But the second quarter of 2020 saw volumes collapse 17% because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on trading.
“In the first half of 2020, Dublin Port’s cargo volumes were weak and were hit particularly badly in April and May because of the pandemic,” said Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Port.
In the third quarter, there was a modest recovery of 1.1%, while in the last quarter a surge in trade led to a 7.6% boost.
December alone saw a huge 21.7% bounce in volumes, amid a rush to stockpile goods ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.
“This is normally a quiet month, but December 2020 ended up being the fifth busiest month ever,” said Mr O’Reilly.
Trailer and container trade for the year was down just 0.5% but Ro-Ro traffic rose 0.2%.
Load-on loan-off traffic was 2.1% lower for the full year.
Today’s figures show that imports of new trade vehicles dropped 29.3%, with petroleum product imports diving 17%.
Travel restrictions meant that passenger numbers were down 57.3% at 833,000 and tourist vehicles dropped 61.6% to 215,000.
“However, with the roll out of vaccines, we are hoping to see this business returning to normal levels later in the year,” Mr O’Reilly said.
The huge impact of Covid-19 on the cruise industry meant just one single ship visited the port in the entire year, compared to 158 a year earlier and Mr O’Reilly said the port is unlikely to see any cruise ships visit this year.
Yesterday, Revenue said the volume of goods passing through Dublin Port remains down as much as 50% year on year, as the impact of Brexit continues to bite.
“Against the background of so much Brexit stock-piling, both on the import side and on the export side, the slow start we are seeing in 2021 was inevitable,” Mr O’Reilly said.
“The gradual return to more normal volumes gives an opportunity for cargo owners to adapt to the re-introduction of non-tariff barriers to trade with Great Britain 28 years after the Single Market did away with them,” he stated.
Mr O’Reilly added that the port remains financially strong and will be progressing with its €400m of capital works over the next five years with investment of €84m in 2021 alone.