Friday, February 22 15:10:19
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 today by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar 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 E6bn 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 37pc (CSO 2011) of Ireland's bulk traffic now transits the Estuary. In 2012 SFPC handled over 10 million tonnes of cargo, an increase of 10pc 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."
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. Large scale investment was achieved on the Estuary in the 1970's and 1980's with the construction of Moneypoint power station and Rusal's Alumina plant at Aughinish but little since of a similar scale.
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 353pc over the period of the masterplan. The Company 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 E12m, 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 3pc to 8pc 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.