Port of Cork lands Cuban trade coup

Port of Cork has scored a major coup in landing a potentially lucrative spot on the first direct freight shipping service from northern Europe to Cuba since economic sanctions were removed on the Caribbean country.

Danish shipping giant Maersk — the world’s largest container carrier — began its first ever connection between northern European ports and Cuba last Friday, promising the fastest freight transit times between Europe and the Cuban port of Mariel. 

The service will link the ports of Bremerhaven in Germany, Rotterdam, Tilbury in the UK and Cork to Mariel and onto Panama.

In the past month, Maersk has acted on rising demand from Irish-based customers by starting a new direct service between Dublin and Algeciras in Spain.

The Cuba development will not only be a boon for Port of Cork but will also act as a significant development for Irish exporters, providing a new opportunity to directly target the Latin American market.

In the past few years the containerised market in Cuba has been growing at between 10% and 15% per annum; main drivers being infrastructure investments and modernisation projects, including the terminal at Mariel and the creation of the Special Economic Zone of Mariel. 

Maersk — one of the first movers since the removal of economic sanctions — is confident the new service will support the development of the Special Economic Zone, which is set to be the main engine of growth for the country.

Earlier this month, the MV Northern Dedication docked in Port of Cork’s deepwater berth at Ringaskiddy, becoming the largest container ship ever to arrive in any Irish port. This forms a weekly scheduled call from Central America to Cork and sees the delivery to Ireland of 75 containers of fresh fruit, mainly comprising Fyffes bananas.

“There are very little restrictions at Ringaskiddy Deepwater Berth, so when it comes to handling a vessel of this size, the port is more than capable. In the future, we would hope to see more of these size vessels calling, as our port expands to meet the needs of our own customers and the needs of the global shipping community,” said Port of Cork commercial manager, Captain Michael McCarthy on the back of the Fyffes delivery.

Recent data from the Irish Maritime Development Office showed that total volumes of container traffic moving through Irish ports grew by 7% last year, with all major traffic modes delivering substantial growth.

Bulk traffic grew by 7% to reach 29.8m tonnes, with Cork, Greenore, Shannon Foynes, Waterford and Wicklow recording above average growth rates.

Load on-load off (LoLo) traffic — which predominantly moves through Dublin, Cork, and Waterford — grew by 8% with each port recording significant volume gains.


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