The shipping industry has had its best year yet, according to the Government's Maritime Development Office.

In its annual economic survey, it said that the shipping services sector is now worth €1.7bn and is vital to national economic growth.

8,300 people are employed in the industry.

IMDO Director Glenn Murphy also records optimism amongst car ferry operators that increasing frustration and problems at airports will lead to a return to sea transport.

Mr Murphy said that the message is that this island economy can not survive without ships and ports.

The importance of ports and ships to the economy is shown with the biggest ever number of containers - 1.2 million - passing through Irish ports, an increase of 12%.

With an increase of 8% in the amount of trucks on freight ferries and bulk cargoes, ships and the ports carried over 90% of all Irish industrial exports and imports.