Pandemic cuts profit at Port of Waterford by 41%

Port chief says decision by Dublin Port to curtail cruise liners ‘certainly a negative’

The absence of all cruise business was among the main drivers of the reduction in performance at the Port of Waterford

The absence of all cruise business was among the main drivers of the reduction in performance at the Port of Waterford

 

The Port of Waterford saw operating profit slump over 41 per cent last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stripped it of parking income and cruise business.

The company reported operating profits for the financial year of €700,000, which was down from the €1.2 million recorded in 2019 during a period of trading set against the pandemic.

The port’s turnover was €7.2 million for the year, which was a reduction of 8 per cent against 2019. Shareholder funds ended the year at €33 million.

Bulk throughput in 2020 came in at 1.5 million tonnes, a 3 per cent decrease on 2019, while the levels of container shipment handled grew by 2 per cent.

The business was said to be showing “very positive momentum” for the first half of 2021 despite the continued challenges posed by the pandemic in the ability to drive car park and cruise income.

Bulk handling is currently ahead of 2020 by over 20 per cent at this year’s halfway point, and container handling is also holding up well and in line with 2020 levels.

Despite the impact of the pandemic on two key areas of business for the port, chief executive Frank Ronan said the overall performance remained profitable.

“We’re reporting what would in any other time be a very poor set of results,” he said. “This is a business that should be making €2.5-€3 million a year. But in the context of what has gone on, it is okay. We’re in good shape and we’re strong.

“The absence of parking income, all Covid-related, and to a lesser extent the cessation of all cruise business, again Covid-related, were the main drivers of the reduction in performance experienced during 2020.”

He said there was “unprecedented co-operation” among Ireland’s ports during the public health emergency, and suggested that perhaps this ought to continue after the crisis has passed.

Mr Ronan also said the resumption of the cruise business would be important in terms of the recovery of the State’s tourism industry. However, he said the decision by Dublin Port to restrict cruise liners was “certainly a negative”.

“We were all a bit surprised when Dublin said they were going to do that,” he said. “We do think the cruise market is important for tourism in Ireland, and it’s an all-island market.

“We all need to pull together to make it an attractive island for these cruise businesses to come here and spend a couple of days here. Taking the capital city out of it is certainly a negative. There is no doubt about that.”

More business

He said the Port of Waterford would have in the region of 12 to 15 calls from cruise liners each year going forward. “We’d like to grow that a little bit more but we don’t think we can grow it too much,” he said.

“We look forward to working closely with the local cruise co-operative and Dunmore East Fishery Harbour to deliver more business for our region’s tourism and hospitality operators.”

Discussing current levels of business for the company and the potential to open up more trade routes, Mr Ronan said plans were in train but that the details for now remained “commercially sensitive”.

“The first six months of this year have gone reasonably well. We are still missing car park and cruise revenue, but, overall, we are satisfied with the levels of business performance.

“The port is in a strong cash position. The underutilisation of the container terminal capacity remains both our main challenge and a major opportunity. The imminent return of rail freight services at the end of the month is eagerly awaited.”