Opening Address to the Dublin Bay History and Environment Conference

29th April, 2015

I would like to welcome you all here today to the Dublin Bay History and Environment Conference and I would like to thank Lucy McCaffrey for her kind invitation to address you.


It is clear from the agenda at today’s conference that we will all leave with a greater understanding of the fascinating picture of the history and environment of Dublin Bay.


Given its location, both in a large centre of population and an area of environmental importance, this places significant challenges on Dublin Port Company in addition to its main challenge of operating the largest port in Ireland and ensuring its continued growth and success


I have visited Dublin Port on a number of occasions now and have seen at first hand the level of activity that goes on a daily basis and the strategic planning that the Port undertakes.


I launched Dublin Port’s sustainability Report in November 2014. The report sets out how Dublin Port Company (DPC) fulfils its mandate to facilitate trade while having due regard for the environment in which it operates.


DPC outlines its challenges as economic, environmental and social and the report accounts for the ports activities under each of these headings. This report made me aware of the significant work that DPC undertakes and of the diversity of areas that DPC effectively has stewardship over.


Ireland’s National Ports Policy (NPP) categorises Dublin Port Company as a Port of National Significance (Tier 1) and the continued commercial development of the port company is a key strategic objective of the Government. NPP recognises the critical importance of commercial seaports in facilitating both our economic recovery and continued growth into the future.


In the Irish context, 90% of goods imported or exported to and from Ireland travel by sea and Dublin Port, as our largest port, plays a key role in the overall transport chain by facilitating the movement of goods from sea to road and rail transport. The port continues to handle over 40% of all tonnage handled at Irish ports and plays an important role in facilitating an export led return to economic growth.


In terms of trade, Dublin Port had a record year in 2014 with growth year on year of 7%. Total throughput for 2014 was 31 million gross tonnes with 7,108 ship arrivals in the year, bringing the port’s activity back to the record levels of 2007.


On the tourism side, 1.7 million ferry passengers travelled through the port in 2014, representing a 6.4% increase on last year and placing Dublin Port on a par with major airports including Cork and Shannon. In addition, 2014 was a strong year for the port’s cruise business with 140,000 visitors on 86 cruise ships.


The port’s importance is also acknowledged as a ‘node and core’ port within the TEN-T Regulation at European Union level and it is the largest of the three Irish ports on the North Sea Mediterranean Corridor.


I was delighted to see that Dublin was successful in its application in 2014 for EU funding towards studies required in relation to the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) Project and I supported their most recent application this year for further EU funding towards this important development of the Port.


The Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) Project is the core element of Dublin Port Company’s Masterplan, endorsed in National Ports Policy, which sets out how the Company will provide the capacity to achieve a throughput of some 60 million tonnes by 2040.


The redevelopment and reconfiguration of Alexandra Basin will allow the Port handle larger ships and to provide for a substantial increase in Port capacity through the provision of multipurpose berths, thus offering a flexible solution for customer needs.


In terms of our ports nationally I think 2015 is going to be a very important year.


I will shortly publish the new Bill which will provide for the transfer to local authority control of the five Ports of Regional Significance – Drogheda, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow. Enactment of this Bill will be an important milestone in National Ports Policy and my officials are working closely with the ports and local authorities in question.


The Bill will also make a number of improvements to the board appointment process generally such as introducing statutory skillsets and term limits which will improve the overall corporate governance of the sector.


All three of our Ports of National Significance (Tier 1) are hoping that 2015 marks the start of a prolonged period of infrastructure improvements and developments.


Earlier this year, I was delighted to officially commence Shannon Foynes’ East Jetty project and both Dublin and Cork are waiting on the decision of An Bord Pleanála as regards their projects in relation to the redevelopment of the Alexander Basin and the development of Ringaskiddy respectively.


As with the economy at large, we are already seeing and hopefully will continue to see our ports shift from recovery mode to growth mode. This means that we need to ensure that our ports are positioned to provide the type of port capacity we require and I’m confident that National Ports Policy provides the required policy framework to underpin the necessary investments in development.


I am aware that in order to proceed with development of any kind other factors have to be considered also and Dublin Port has recently completed a comprehensive assessment of the environment of the Port as part of the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed redevelopment. Today’s conference is aimed at sharing this information and should prove fascinating.


Thank you very much