Photo by Ollie Craig via Pexels

Latest figures show 6% year-on-year decline in cargo traffic at UK ports

The latest Port Freight Quarterly Statistics report from the UK Department of Transport has revealed that total freight tonnage at UK ports fell by 6% to 103 million tonnes compared to the same period in 2023.

You can read this article in 3 minutes

The figures show that the decline was driven by a 3% reduction in inward tonnage to 69.6 million tonnes and a significant 10% drop in outward tonnage to 33.4 million tonnes.

Mixed results at different ports

The picture is nonetheless rather disparate once you look at the port-specific data, which shows significant fluctuations between port results.

Ports with increased cargo traffic

Aberdeen reported a modest increase in cargo traffic, rising by 1% from Q1 2023 to Q1 2024, with the port handling 879 thousand tonnes of cargo.

Similarly, Cardiff experienced a stable 4% increase, processing 293 thousand tonnes in Q1 2024. Dover also saw a 4% increase, processing 4,958 thousand tonnes. Meanwhile, Cairnryan recorded solid growth of 13%, managing 1,100 thousand tonnes.

Notably, Cromarty Firth witnessed a remarkable rise with a 151% increase, handling 213 thousand tonnes. Milford Haven also achieved a notable 25% increase, managing 900 thousand tonnes, while Plymouth experienced a substantial 74% increase, processing 300 thousand tonnes.

Ports with decreased cargo traffic

Belfast was among those ports to experience a year-on-year decline in cargo traffic in Q1 2204, which dropped by 3% to 4,435 thousand tonnes.

Boston suffered a slight decrease of 5% as well, dropping down to 167 thousand tonnes. Moreover, Dundee experienced a 9% reduction, processing 108 thousand tonnes.

The port of Clyde faced a much sharper decline with a 69% reduction, managing 730 thousand tonnes. Hull recorded a significant 59% decline, falling to 280 thousand tonnes, while Liverpool’s 1,459 thousand tonnes represented a 16% year-on-year decrease. Additionally, London experienced a considerable 25% decline, handling 3,200 thousand tonnes.

Liquid bulk and dry bulk down

The latest statistics from the UK Department of Transport also show a notable decline in liquid bulk, decreasing by 11% to 40.5 million tonnes.

Clydeport was significantly impacted, experiencing a 68% reduction due to unplanned maintenance, while Medway and Milford Haven saw reductions of 62% and 11%, respectively. Dry bulk also saw a decrease of 8%, with London and Port Talbot experiencing the largest declines.

Unitised traffic and Ro-Ro freight on the up

Contrarily, unitised traffic rose by 3% to 4.6 million units, with inward units increasing by 4% and outward units by 2%.

Container traffic showed minimal change in tonnage but saw a 4% increase in unitised traffic.

Ro-Ro freight tonnage fell by 2%, heavily impacted by declines at Portsmouth and Felixstowe. However, Ro-Ro non-freight units rose by 6%, with Dover seeing a substantial 22% increase.