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Law puts ports under local government

Friday, June 06 12:57:41

The Government today published the Heads of a Bill that will see control of Ireland's state commercial ports shift from central to local Government.

The Cabinet has approved the draft General Scheme of a new Bill with important implications for Ireland's vital port sector, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar has announced.

The Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2014 will allow the five designated Ports of Regional Significance in Drogheda, Dun Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow to transfer to local authority ownership at a future date, in line with Government policy to strengthen local government.

"These five ports play an important role through tourism, leisure amenity, and regional trade. The Government has decided that their future is best secured under strong local governance," the minister said.

The draft legislation builds upon Minister Varadkar's ongoing reform of the State commercial ports sector as announced in last year's new National Ports Policy. "This is an important Bill for the ports sector, which plays a major role in the Irish economy. The National Ports Policy encourages each port, whether small or large, to develop its full potential to ensure that they can all contribute to further growth in the ports sector. Transferring the five regional ports to local authority management at a future date will be the best way to protect their future and ensure good governance," Minister Varadkar said.

Sea-borne freight through Ireland's ports sector accounts for 84pc of Ireland's trade in volume and 62pc in value terms. Many of Ireland's major exporting sectors such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food rely heavily on sea transport.

The Bill will also introduce higher standards for appointments to the boards at Ireland's largest port companies at Dublin, Cork, Shannon Foynes and Waterford. It will set out specific skillsets for potential appointees, introduce term limits and make it a legal requirement for Chairmen-designate to appear before the relevant Oireachtas committee prior to their appointment. This is already a non-statutory Government requirement.

The draft Bill will now be sent to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications for detailed consideration by all its members.