PLANS ARE being made to turn Dún Laoghaire harbour into a port-of-call for “next generation” cruise liners with a capacity for up to 5,000 passengers.
The plans are being supported by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council as well as the local chamber of commerce, retail and tourism interests and will be advanced by a new master plan being drawn up for the harbour.
Gerry Dunne, chief executive of the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, said the east coast has no facility to cater for cruise ships of the size now being built for a market that is expected to double in the next 10 years.
“We propose to build that facility here and we’re looking seriously at the business case for this investment,” he said. He could not say, however, what it might cost or how the project would be funded.
It would involve excavating to a depth of 9.5 metres and building a berth to accommodate liners up to 330m in length, compared to 160m for current cruise ships with a capacity of up to 2,500 passengers.
Asked about the attitude of Dublin Port, which attracts some 80 cruise ship visits a year, to these plans, Mr Dunne said it was aware of them, adding: “A cruise ship coming into a beautiful harbour is preferable to going into an industrial zone”.
He said Dún Laoghaire needed to think about the future as it was likely that the Stena high-speed ferry services would be replaced by more conventional ferries on the Holyhead route. The harbour company’s “lucrative contract” with Stena expires in April.
Mr Dunne said the revenue from Stena accounted for 70 per cent of the harbour company’s income, but it would be “a lot less” under a new contract currently being negotiated, and other sources of revenue would have to be found.
The new master plan now being developed would include increasing public access to the harbour, providing for waterfront development and harbour-related uses and redeveloping the Carlisle Pier on the theme of Ireland’s diaspora.
He confirmed that the harbour company had just lodged an appeal to An Bord Pleanála against the county council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the retention of its controversial demolition of the old railway terminal on the pier.
Mr Dunne emphasised that the decision to demolish the pier’s derelict ferry terminal was taken in the knowledge it was not classified as a protected structure – a point that had already been accepted by the council and the appeals board.
“We need a master plan to underpin the changing emphasis of Dún Laoghaire harbour from a commercial to a recreational harbour and to secure the harbour’s future by addressing the impact of the change in profile of ferry sailings on the Dún Laoghaire-Holyhead route.”
He also noted that the harbour would celebrate its bicentenary in 2016.
In tandem with the master plan, architects Shaffrey and Associates are preparing a heritage management plan, aimed at maintaining its fabric to a high standard.
Members of the public have been invited to contribute ideas for the master plan through its website, dlharbour.ie/masterplan or by post to Masterplan Team, Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, Harbour Lodge, Crofton Road, Dún Laoghaire.