Friday 14 August 2009

Report on the role of Dublin Port and its future published

Minister Noel Dempsey TD has published a study on the future role of Dublin Port.

The study was conducted under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and contains important conclusions in relation to Dublin Port and the wider port sector.

Speaking on the publication of the report, Minister Dempsey said - “The future of Dublin Port has been the subject of much discussion in recent years. The future of this port is not just a local or regional matter - it is of major strategic importance to the country as a whole. The National Development Plan recognised this fact by providing for this study.

"As a trade dependent island nation we are reliant upon our ports to facilitate economic growth. Notwithstanding the current downturn and its associated effects in terms of decreased traffic volumes, the ports sector is one that demands long-term forward planning and analysis.

"This report is an important analysis - not just of the future of Dublin Port, but also provides a useful insight into the capacity challenges that face the sector as a whole.”

The study highlights the strategic importance of Dublin Port to the economy. Over 40% of national tonnage passes through the port and it plays a particularly important role in terms of fast-moving high value cargos. The port has a 75% market share for roll-on-roll-off trucks (RoRo) and 64% for lift-on-lift-off containers (LoLo). The port is also vital in terms of the State’s energy supply, handling 45% of national oil imports.

Highlights from the study include the following -

* A projection that national port throughput will continue to decline in 2009 and into 2010 and that traffic throughput will not return to 2007 levels until post 2011.
* Traffic projections have been formulated at a time of great uncertainty, but this does not impact on the key conclusions reached.
* There is a need to develop significant additional port capacity by 2025 - 2030 as a result of future capacity constraints in existing port facilities.
* There are two significant projects at different stages of the planning process at present. Dublin Port’s proposed expansion is currently with An Bord Pleanála and the proposal for a new port at Bremore is at the pre-planning stage. The study identifies considerable uncertainties with regard to both projects. It concludes that nothing should be done at a policy level to hinder either.
* The cost benefit analysis of seven different future scenarios identifies potential benefits relating to the relocation or partial relocation of Dublin Port in terms of city sustainability issues arising out of increased urbanisation, greater usage of public transport and a related reduction in congestion.
However, the costs of such a relocation are very significant in terms of the capital costs of building alternative capacity, the inevitable business disruption caused by such a relocation and increased traffic movements.
* An important finding of the cost benefit analysis is in relation to the scale and value of the port estate, if it were to be redeveloped. The study concludes that such redevelopment would have to take place over a considerable length of time, which could realistically reach a century.
* The detailed cost benefit analysis of seven different scenarios concludes that retention of Dublin Port in its present location - together with onsite expansion - would deliver the highest net present value in cost benefit terms.

Minister Dempsey added - “The State ports played a vital role in facilitating the strong economic growth over the last decade, with tonnage increasing 50% over the ten years up to 2007. It was quite an achievement for the sector to accommodate such growth levels without any major disruption of trade and it is equally important that the sector is in a position to perform the same role when the economy returns to growth.”

The Ports Sub-Programme of the National Development Plan 2007 -2013 estimates port infrastructural expenditure of between €300 million and €600 million over the period of the programme. To-date, capital investment under the sub-programme is in line with this. Some €120 million has been invested in the first two years of the programme, with a further €75 million budgeted for 2009. This expenditure is being funded by the port companies themselves, without recourse to Exchequer funding.

The recently enacted Harbours (Amendment) Act 2009 contains a number of provisions designed to enhance the commercial ethos of the State-owned port companies and to facilitate their continued growth and development.

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