Port of Cork reports 2% drop in traffic in 2020 due to Covid-19

The Port of Cork has reported that total traffic through the port was down 2% to 9.2 million tonnes in 2020.

A dip in trade traffic is a direct result of the challenges posed by Covid-19 and the cancellation of cruise calls to Cork in particular.

Despite these challenges, overall container traffic through the Port of Cork reached 250,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), an increase of 4%.

The port attributes the strong performance in this area to “several drivers, chief amongst them a demand from customers for direct routes, resulting in the introduction of several new container services”.

New routes in 2020

In April 2020, CLdN ro-ro SA commenced a new weekly freight service between Cork and Zeebrugge. This route subsequently increased to twice weekly, which highlighted “the positive demand for direct, unaccompanied freight links to the EU, as shippers look to avoid the uncertainty surrounding the UK land-bridge as a consequence of Brexit”.

A further new route was established in June 2020, when Independent Container Line (ICL) commenced a new weekly direct service from Cork to USA, giving Ireland its first direct container service to the USA in many years.

However, Covid-19 “impacted heavily” on the port’s tourism related activities, with Brittany Ferries’ services to the continent decreasing sharply and only two cruise ship calls completed, compared to over a hundred calls in the previous year.

Port of Cork said that the outlook for a return to cruise activities in particular is poor and will remain so until the worst of the pandemic has passed and confidence in that sector can start to rebuild.

Other areas of port traffic, such as liquid bulk and break bulk, decreased marginally. However, these areas are set to return in 2021.

A challenging year

Conor Mowlds, chief commercial officer of Port of Cork said: “While 2020 was a challenging year, our port operations remained open throughout and we continued to play an important role in ensuring supply chains were maintained across the southern half of the country.

“Some areas of our trade were adversely affected, particularly our cruise business, which effectively ceased last March due to Covid.

That said, with the significant efforts that are being placed in the development of effective return protocols, we are confident that we will see a return to some level of cruise activity by the end of this year, and certainly in 2022.

“Even with the challenges of the global pandemic and the advent of Brexit, the Port of Cork has welcomed several new freight services to the continent and an exciting direct link to the US, showing our resilience and capability to adapt, and our commitment to fulfilling our role as a vital cog in keeping the region moving.”

Bantry Bay Port Company, sister Port to the Port of Cork, reported an increase in total trade traffic in 2020 to 1.3 million tonnes.