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Shannon Foynes Port Company reveals ambitious plans to develop Ireland’s deepest port

News // March 5, 2013

Ireland’s largest bulk port company, Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC), has today unveiled plans to double its trade in the next three decades with the publication of an ambitious masterplan, Vision 2041.

The plan was launched by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar, TD, and is the first of its kind set out by the company, which has statutory jurisdiction over all commercial maritime activities on the Shannon Estuary, stretching from Kerry Head/Loop Head to Limerick City consisting of an area of 500km2.

SFPC currently helps to facilitate international trade valued at over €6 billion per annum through the six port facilities on the Shannon Estuary. The Port facilities are of national importance and this is reflected in the fact that 37 per cent (CSO 2011) of Ireland’s bulk traffic now transits the Estuary. In 2012 SFPC handled over 10 million tonnes of cargo, an increase of 10 per cent on 2010.

Launching the masterplan, Minister Varadkar said: “I commend the port for drafting such a realistic, achievable and ambitious plan. Shannon Foynes is an important asset for the south west of Ireland, and for our national economy, and I welcome its goal to attract significant international investment. The significance of the port has been recognised internationally by its designation as a TEN-T core port by the European Council.”

Among the key elements of the plan is the aim to attract global investment that would necessitate the development of a new deep-water berth of 20m plus at its main port, Foynes. 

Such large scale investment was achieved on the Estuary in the 1970s and 1980s with the construction of Moneypoint power station and Rusal’s Alumina plant at Aughinish but little since of a similar scale.

Vision 2041 will assist in targeting international investors by promoting the company’s position as the only Irish port authority with sufficient natural water depths to accommodate the emerging trend for larger vessels (up to 80,000 tonnes) post the enlargement of the Panama Canal - the world’s most important shipping route and which influences vessel size globally.

To facilitate the doubling of trade, the masterplan is targeting the upgrading of the N69 (Foynes to Limerick road) to cater for increased heavy goods traffic of up to 353 per cent over the period of the masterplan. 

The company says it welcomes the fact that upgrade works on the N69 were completed in 2012 but calls on the authorities to prioritise at a National level the N69 upgrades in the short-term in order to facilitate traffic growth projected in Vision 2041.

The plan also targets the reinstatement, at a cost of €12 million, in the near future of the Foynes-Limerick rail line, which will enhance access to and from the port for large swathes of the country. The uncongested rail access – unique for an Irish port – will significantly strengthen the port’s capacity to capitalize on the unrivalled deep-waters of the estuary in in the ‘post-Panamax’ era. 

The company will also seek the zoning of an additional 89 hectares of development land at Foynes for facilities at the port, including an additional 9,290sqm of new warehousing, to facilitate the anticipated 3 per cent to 8 per cent annual tonnage growth over the 30 year plan. 

The masterplan also sets out ambitious plans for the port authority’s second largest port, Limerick Docks. These include, among other elements, a proposal for the development of a Marine Energy Park in a collaborative approach with the local authority, educational stakeholders and the private sector through the potential diversification of noncore assets there.

This is in addition to growing tonnages at the port itself where SFPC views the Docks as a very important long term hub for current customers and the indigenous bulk export sector. 

The masterplan also anticipates the number of people employed in port activities increasing by 25 per cent over the period of Vision 2041 with the economic benefits extending towards a much larger economic system.

The first major project to get underway will be the infilling of the East Jetty, a 12 month project employing up to 150 people during construction, which is expected to commence in 2015 and will be completed at a cost of €12 million. Social integration with communities, including enhancing the aesthetics of the ports, is already underway and will accelerate in the short-term.

Launching the masterplan, Shannon Foynes Port Company Chairman Michael Collins said that while ambitious and challenging, the projected growth in the plan is more than achievable. 

“After some challenging years we have achieved consistent progress since 2008 and SFPC is now a lean, well managed, profitable and efficient operation. We have a great workforce and strong management team under our CEO Pat Keating who has led this turnaround.

“With the unrivalled opportunity we have due to our deepwater and emergence of larger vessels, we have a unique opportunity here that we need to take advantage of.   For these reasons, the Estuary is one of the jewels in the nation’s crown from an investment potential perspective.

“What is key now is that this opportunity is recognised as not just in the local but national interest and that there is very real engagement with enterprise promotion and development agencies so that it can be fully delivered on. It is vital that these agencies, assisted by SFPC, convert the opportunity and attract the scale of investment to the Shannon Estuary that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Shannon Foynes Port Company Chief Executive Pat Keating said that the Estuary can be a key location for future industrial investment, FDI or otherwise. “Industries with bulk shipping requirements need deep-water for shipping of raw materials in and products out. That’s why the likes of Moneypoint, which has the deepest water jetty in the country, and Rusal (Aughinish) are here and that’s why Shannon LNG wants to invest here. 

“Our intention is to ensure that more of this investment is secured on the Estuary and for the region in the future.  Having a strategic masterplan such as Vision2041, together with the Shannon Integrated Framework Plan (SIFP), sets out a roadmap for that.  The SIFP and Vision 2041 are about maximising the vast and unique opportunities we have here for the betterment of the wider region, our customers and the port company.

“It is clear that Vision 2041, while driven by SFPC can only be successfully implemented by the assistance and co-operation of the relevant stakeholders locally, regionally and nationally. Accordingly, SFPC intends to adopt a partnership approach to its implementation and looks forward to working constructively with the stakeholders.”

Vision 2041 will be subject to regular monitoring and a formal review every six to ten years, which is likely to entail further public consultation with all key stakeholders.   SFPC is also committed to continuing compliance with all applicable environmental legislation and other relevant requirements in the pursuit of its duties and powers and will take these fully into account in all of its actions and decisions.

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