WORK IS due to begin within days on demolishing 10 oil storage tanks in Galway docks in time for next month’s Volvo Ocean Race stopover.
Galway harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan has confirmed that the dockside terminal site has been made safe this week, and contracting teams are about to start dismantling the steel structures.
The demolition is exempt from planning approval under the Planning and Development Act 2000, says Galway City Council, and the scrap will be “recycled”.
The controversy surrounding the tanks, and their impact on the yacht race, had become so heated that some felt they might have to be painted as pints of Guinness to mask their presence during the prestigious international race.
A temporary race “village” had been earmarked for the tank site, on the premise that they would be removed in time.
The 10 tanks are located so close to the city centre that would not meet updated safety measures in the wake of the Buncefield explosions in Hertfordshire, England, three years ago.
However, Topaz, which acquired use of the storage tanks when it took over Shell’s retail business, had engaged in protracted negotiations to move to a new terminal built on the harbour’s southern limits.
Several weeks ago, Galway mayor Pádraig Conneely wrote to both Topaz and Chevron, both of whom had been invited to move to the new terminal, appealing to their “civic duty” to facilitate the Volvo race.
Last week’s reported acquisition of the new Enwest Terminal by Edward Holdings broke the impasse, as Gerry Barrett of Edward Holdings is also a shareholder in Topaz.
Topaz chief operating officer Frank Bergin said in a statement that Topaz had been “working tirelessly behind the scenes for the last 18 months” with the Galway harbour authorities and the owners of the new Enwest terminal “with a view to securing agreement”, and said that the company recognised “the importance of the Volvo Ocean Race to Galway, and indeed to the country”.
The Government has committed €8 million to Galway for the Volvo yachting event, which represents the largest State investment of its type to date in a sporting event.
The stopover by the race fleet is expected to attract 140,000 spectators who will spend in the region of €40 million.
A detailed programme of shore events was published in Galway last night.
The entertainment will include free concerts by Sharon Shannon and groups such as Aslan, The Stunning, the Coronas, Hothouse Flowers.
Organisers say there will be street theatre, an art trail and an aerial display by the British Red Arrows.
The Galway Alliance Against War has expressed its disappointment at the invitation issued to the Red Arrows, and has said that it will stage a protest if the invitation is not withdrawn.
The race fleet, including two entries with strong Irish connections, is currently in Rio de Janeiro and preparing to leave for Boston. It is expected that the fleet will take a week to cross the Atlantic to Galway in mid-May, approaching the city via the Aran islands.