Same old port, with a new plan

The Progressive Democrats have a plan to move Dublin Port's industrial functions to a new port at Bremore. With Dublin Port due to reach capacity in 2007, an alternative plan is needed. By David White and Emma Browne

With capacity at Irish ports due to reach saturation point in 2014, and 2007 in Dublin, a proposal by the PDs to move Dublin port out of the city could be the answer. Dublin City Council (DCC) are supportive of the plan, indicating that they will be reluctant to facilitate the expansion Dublin port needs.

The PD's proposal entitled "Heart of Dublin" would see the Dublin industrial shipping facilitates moved to Bremore port in Balbriggan. This would free up 660 acres of land in the port area which would then be used to build a Manhattan style quarter that would house 80,000 people. There would be parks, marinas and waterfront waterways as well.

Tom Morrisey, the PD's spokesperson on Transport says that they have met with the DCC and they are supportive of the move. DCC would not comment directly on the proposal but referred Village to their policy as outlined in the current Development Plan 2005-2011. The development plan indicated they are supportive of the Dublin port, but cautious about its expansion. "It is the policy of DCC to support the continued development of Dublin Port subject to the highest environmental standards and minimisation of potential impact on the surrounding environment." The DCC has frequently expressed concern at the amount of traffic the port brings into the city centre.

The need to move the some of the port activities out of Dublin was identified in the National Spatial Strategy. A report by Baxter Eadie said that Irish ports will reach capacity by 2014 and Dublin, as early as 2007. Since 1998 the Dublin Port Company has been requesting a 21-hectare extension to the Port. But even if they do get this expansion, it will eventually become saturated and the options of expansion they have are very limited.

Dublin port accounts for almost 50 per cent turnover of Irish ports. The value of cargo handled at Dublin Port in 2005 was around ?45 billion – almost 35 per cent of the Gross National Product. A study by by economist Peter Bacon, estimates that a failure to expand Dublin Port could cost the economy €24 million annually within the next five years, and up to €40 million annually within a decade.

Other ports in Europe have faced similar problems and have chosen to move out of town. Ports in Rotterdam, Le Harve, Bilbao, and Copenhagen have all had to move to new facilities. The proposal by the PDs is based on the Helsinki port model, which has similar infrastructure, location and port as Dublin.

The PD plan for a port outside Dublin is based on the proposed deepwater port in Bremore, launched by the Drogheda Port Company (DPC) in September 2004. The 150 hectare site is located just north of Balbriggan and south of Gormanstown. The port has backing from its local authority – Fingal County Council. The port is placed in a good location – the Dublin to Belfast road is 2.5 km away and rail-line are nearby. It is also close to Dublin airport and the M50 – 27.5 km. Phase one of the development would cater for up to five million tones of freight, but it has a capacity of up to 20 million tones (In 2003 the total freight handled by Irish ports was 46 million tones). At present the road infrastructure would be able to handle the phase one volumes but upgrades in the future would be needed for the second and third phases. Construction is expected to begin in about two years, subject to Government and planning approval. According to the DPC it would take 20 years to get to phase three – the PD's plan is based on a 25 year timeframe.

The PD's plan is getting support from the Dublin Transportation Office, Dublin City Centre Business Association and the Irish Haulage Association. The plan does not see a cessation of port activity as they propose to establish Dublin as a major destination for cruise liners, and propose a new ferry terminal in the port. The cruise liner industry would bring tourists and money into the capital. In 2004, 70 cruise ships docked in Dublin port, with a total of 200,000 passengers who spent €100 million in the city.

Reg McCabe, Ibec's Director of Transport, says there are problems with the proposal. The PDs have "simplified" matters, by failing to consider the costs of moving Dublin port. He said that the Government would have to compensate the people living in the dock area before they can sell the land, predicting that the compensation would be "expensive". There are 4,000 people employed in the docklands area who Ibec say would need to be accommodated if the port was moved. Enda Connellan who is CEO of Dublin Port is the chairman of Ibec's transport council. The PDs say €30 million would be raised by selling land in the port area, which would cover any costs. However, the market value for land in the docklands area is a minimum of €15million per acre. At this price the sale of 660 acres would raise €10billion. Transport is another problem – 50 per cent of the goods coming through Dublin Port stay within the M50 ring, while a further 75 per cent remain within 80 km of the city. At present 7 km of trucks arrive in Dublin port every Monday morning. These goods would still have to be transported from Bremore to Dublin. Also there is the question of the Port Tunnel, built specifically to cater for the port traffic, and due to open in April. The PDs say that in their plan the Tunnel could transport all those living and working to and from the port area, and also transport people to the airport.