Shannon traffic figures to July 2014

I am grateful to Waterways Ireland for letting me have the Shannon traffic figures for July 2014. All the usual caveats apply:

  • the underlying figures do not record total waterways usage (even for the Shannon) as, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded
  • the passage records would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats
  • figures like these, for a small number of months, will not necessarily be representative of those for the year as a whole. The winter months, January to March, see little traffic in any year; for April, May and June, the weather can have a large influence on the amount of activity especially, I suspect, in private boats.

On the other hand, the figures do include the Shannon’s most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business. And they are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the inland waterways.

Shannon all boats Jan to Jul 2014

Total (private + hired) traffic for the first seven months of each year

Traffic in 2013 was up a bit on 2012; 2014 is down slightly below the 2012 level. It’s the lowest seven-month figure in the series (ie since 2003), which is a bit of a surprise: I thought that the good weather would encourage more boating.

The changes are small, so their importance must not be exaggerated, but they’re not cause for celebration. Let’s see whether the drop was amongst private or hired boats (or both).

Shannon private boats Jan to Jul 2014

Private-boat traffic for the first seven months of each year

Private traffic is up a bit on 2012 but down on 2013.

Shannon hired boats Jan to Jul 2014

Hire-boat traffic for the first seven months of each year

Hire-boat traffic is down on both previous years, but the pace of decline seems to have slowed.

Shannon private and hired -v- 2003 Jan to Jul 2014

Changes since 2003: private and hired boats

Hire-boat traffic seems to be levelling off at 40% of its 2003 figure: a massive loss of business. I do not know whether anyone is trying to, or could, recover that amount of business. I am not aware of any new Shannon-based tourism business that could compensate for the losses in the cruising (hire-boat) business, but I would be glad to hear from anyone who knows of such projects. Something with high growth potential is required.

Private traffic is wobbling either side of its 2003 figure: the increases during the Celtic Tiger years have been lost.

Shannon private -v- hired boats Jan to Jul 2014

Still roughly 50/50

In the year to July 2014, hire-boat traffic was just above private traffic, but there is very little in it. Private traffic is now comparatively more important to Waterways Ireland [which may be why it is now trying to establish its economic importance] but it does not bring in much money from outside the two jurisdictions, so the case for public spending on waterways becomes much weaker.

And, quite clearly, opening more waterways doesn’t work: as this chart showed last month, the branches off the main lines of the Shannon, Erne and SEW are little used. The Lough Allen Canal, the Suck and the navigation to Limerick are very little used and I see no sign that the reopened Royal Canal has attracted many visitors to Ireland. What is needed is more intensive usage of the main waterways, not further dilution by the opening of more branches [to Clones or anywhere else].

SnnNav JanJun 6

High and low usage

Finally, I thought it might be interesting to see whether the monthly pattern of usage has changed since 2003. To avoid an over-cluttered chart, I included only four years: 2003, 2003 +5, 2003 + 10 and 2014. The chart is for all boats, private and hired.

Shannon all boats by month selected years Jan to Jul 2014

Monthly traffic, selected years

The season seems to have got going earlier in 2003 and even in 2008. Was the weather better in those years?

 

2 responses to “Shannon traffic figures to July 2014

  1. “And, quite clearly, opening more waterways doesn’t work: as this chart showed last month, the branches off the main lines of the Shannon, Erne and SEW are little used. The Lough Allen Canal, the Suck and the navigation to Limerick are very little used and I see no sign that the reopened Royal Canal has attracted many visitors to Ireland. What is needed is more intensive usage of the main waterways, not further dilution by the opening of more branches [to Clones or anywhere else”

    Not quite sure I follow your logic here.
    Clearly, there have to be some waterways in existence in the first place if you want to run a tourist boat hire business on them, and having more waterways available for that purpose can hardly REDUCE visitor numbers. The reason tourist visits are not thriving is surely because Irish facilities are half-arsed compared to those available in more popular areas? That’s both in terms of the booking front end (websites years out of date, businesses that only take cash or cheque, etc etc) and total lack of facilities (“harbours” and “marinas” which don’t even have a rubbish bin or a water tap, never mind showers, pump-outs or shops).
    The miles of wasterway available are a red herring. And somehow I doubt the cost of installing a rubbish bin is going to be impeded one way or the other by the non-existence of £30 million to dig a sheught to Clones.

  2. I see that you are a student of the politics of Northern Ireland, adept at arguing against positions that were not those adopted by your interlocutor.

    1. There are some waterways. Quite a lot of them, in fact.

    2. And there have been quite a lot of extensions to the network in the recent past.

    3. I did not say that having more of them reduced visitor numbers; I said that it did not increase them. Unfortunately, the availability of new destinations (including the fabled cities of Ballinasloe, Limerick, Drumshanbo and Mullingar) has not resulted in the attraction of more visitors. I see no reason to believe that Clones would be any more successful, but perhaps its present tourism industry is more prosperous than I believe it to be, with the railway engine-shed attracting coach-loads of trippers.

    4. If memory serves, your recent experience of Irish waterways (at least in the Free State) was on the Royal Canal. Conditions there may not apply to the Shannon, where pretty well every harbour has water and some have rubbish bins. The problem with bins is not the cost of installing them: it is the cost of carting away all the rubbish deposited therein by the non-boating citizenry. I expect that Waterways Ireland will also have to restrict the availability of free water.

    5. I would not in any way wish to discourage you, or the citizens of Clones, from spending your own millions on providing a sheugh. I suggest, though, that it would be a poor investment for the rest of the citizenry (or, for Norn Iron, subjects).

    bjg

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