THE location of a proposed €220 million container terminal should be known by Port of Cork directors next October and the possibility of reapplying for permission to build it in Ringaskiddy has not been ruled out.
Last year Bord Pleanála refused the Port of Cork permission to build the terminal at the Oyster Bank in Ringaskiddy, following major objections from residents living in the lower harbour.
Port of Cork’s chief executive, Brendan Keating, said the shock refusal had put plans for the deep water terminal back up to two years.
Initially it was hoped to have the Oyster Bank terminal operational by 2013. The new terminal is needed to cater for far larger cargo vessels, which are becoming the norm and which cannot berth at Tivoli.
However, port management has some breathing space, especially as there is an economic downturn and as the Tivoli docks still has five years before it reaches capacity.
“Yes, there is a slowdown in the market, but any port company worth its salt has to plan for the future. There will be a recovery,” Mr Keating said.
The port plans to revisit all 12 sites in the harbour it previously looked at before selecting the Oyster Bank.
Despite repeatedly denying that Ringaskiddy remained the optimum site, Mr Keating said Bord Pleanála recognised the lower harbour was the obvious location.
He said the recent review of the County Development Plan also strengthened the case for a deep water terminal in Ringaskiddy.
Port of Cork chairman, Dermot O’Mahony, said Bord Pleanála’s refusal centred on the inability of the N28 (Cork-Ringaskiddy road) to handle extra heavy goods traffic generated by the development.
The appeals board also decided a new container terminal should be served by a rail link, which Ringaskiddy lacks.
“They should make it (the N28) a dual carriageway, and the money should come out of the county council’s development contributions,” Mr O’Mahoney said.
The Government will soon publish a plan for sustainable transport and Port of Cork management hope this will include the development of more railways.
Mr Keating said the issues highlighted by Bord Pleanála would be looked at again in detail.
“We have to have the facilities, or we will lose business and that will affect the whole region,” the port’s chief executive said.
Port officials are also in discussion with Conocco Phillips about maximising throughput at the Whitegate refinery’s jetty. The refinery’s traffic accounts for about a third of the port’s annual income.