New figures show that in the first quarter of this year, the Dublin Port Company saw its strongest rate of growth for ten years.

Cargo volumes at Dublin Port increased by 5.3% in the first three months of the year compared to the same time last year.

Total imports and exports rose by 5.3% to 7.8 million tonnes in the first quarter, compared to 7.4 million tonnes last year. 

The company said that imports were especially strong at 4.7 million gross tonnes, while exports reached 3.1 million gross tonnes. This marked increases of 6.9% and 3% respectively.

A total of 1,642 ships arrived at the port in the three months from January to March.

Dublin Port said the overall growth was driven by increased movements of unitised goods (containers and trailers) and by imports of petroleum products.

It noted that while the recovery in volumes has been export-led in recent years, there has also been strong growth on the import side as the domestic economy also starts to recover. 

Imports of new cars and commercial vehicles continued to grow very strongly, according to today's figures, with almost 33,000 new vehicles imported through the port in the three month period. This was up almost 39% on the same time last year.

Dublin Port last year opened a new 4.2 hectare trade car terminal last year as part of its "Masterplan 2012 to 2040". This new terminal can handle 2,500 vehicles at a time.

On the tourism side, Dublin Port attracted 277,269 ferry passengers in the first quarter, up 5% on last year. The port expects further growth after Stena Line's introduction of a new ship on the Dublin to Holyhead route.

Dublin Port Company's chief executive Eamonn O'Reilly said that Dublin is the chose route for imports and exports because of its direct access to most of Ireland's population and frequent shipping services to Ireland's markets in the UK, Europe and beyond.

He said the port is expanding its capacity to cater for future growth with a focus on working within the existing footprint of the port and maximising the use of existing port lands.

Plans include the lengthening and deepening of the port's berths and shipping channel and the redevelopment of existing lands for more intensive cargo handling.

"Our current plans are centred on the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project which we hope to commence during 2015.  In addition to providing additional capacity for cargo, this project will allow us to bring the world's largest cruise ships right up to the East Link Bridge," Mr O'Reilly said.