Irish Ports set for Radical Overhaul

April 4, 2013 4:45 pm Last Updated: April 7, 2013 12:18 am

Plans to radically overhaul Ireland’s commercial ports and give Government a more hands-on role in the maritime ports sector were announced on Tuesday by Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, Mr Leo Varadkar TD.

The new National Ports Policy aims to harness the potential of every port in Ireland. According to the minister, previous policies have not recognised the huge diversity among the 19 ports that handle commercial freight in Ireland. The core objective of the new National Ports Policy is to facilitate a competitive and effective market for maritime transport services.

“Our commercial ports are vital to our economic recovery and to future economic growth. They are the gateways for most of our merchandise trade, and for significant numbers of tourists and passengers. This new ports policy encourages each port, large or small, to develop its full potential to ensure that each one can contribute to further growth in the ports sector,” Minister Varadkar said.

The main features of the new policy are:

Instead of adopting a ‘laissez faire’ approach, the Government will become a more active shareholder;

Private investment in the ports will be encouraged;

Move from a ‘one size fits all’ policy to one that recognises that different ports have different roles to play, now and in the future. 

In recognising the different roles of each port, this policy determines which ports are of National Significance and have a national function, and which are of Regional Significance with a specialist significance at national level:

•Ports of National Significance (Tier 1) are designated as: Dublin Port Company, the Port of Cork Company and Shannon Foynes Port, each of which accounts for more than 15% of national trade;

•Ports of National Significance (Tier 2) are designated as Rosslare Europort and the Port of Waterford Company, either of which accounts for between 2% and 15% of national trade;

•Ports of Regional Significance: The remaining 14 ports account for 8% of national trade, but many have national significance in terms of specialist services or products. These include the five State companies at Drogheda, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow. These Ports of Regional Significance will be placed within a local authority-led governance structure with local authorities taking shareholdings in the ports.

• Future investment in deepwater capacity, when needed, will not occur until it has been subjected to stringent analysis commissioned by the Department, and will be led by the national ports;

• The commercial mandate of ports will remain. They will be expected to turn a profit, pay a dividend and will not receive Exchequer grants.

Welcoming the publication of the National Ports Policy, the Director of the Irish Maritime Development Office Glenn Murphy said: ‘The Policy provides clarity to our port companies in terms of their future direction, but importantly for the thousands of Irish and International companies that depend everyday on effective and efficient ports to connect their business with the global economy’.

The Government expects the Ports of National Significance (Tier 1) to lead the response of the State commercial ports sector to any future national port capacity requirements. There is also a role in this regard for the two Ports of National Significance (Tier 2) to develop additional capacity to aid competitive conditions within the unitised sectors (Lift On/Lift Off and Roll On/Roll Off) in particular. These five ports collectively handle approximately 92% of all tonnage handled at Irish ports in any given year.