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Dublin Port Invites Alternative Views on Post-2040 Port Capacity Challenge

22nd March 2021
Dublin Port's 3FM Project envisages the development of port lands on the Poolbeg Peninsula and the construction of a new bridge to provide a Southern Port Access Route to take port-related HGV traffic off existing public roads including East Wall Road, the Tom Clarke Bridge and Pigeon House Road
Dublin Port's 3FM Project envisages the development of port lands on the Poolbeg Peninsula and the construction of a new bridge to provide a Southern Port Access Route to take port-related HGV traffic off existing public roads including East Wall Road, the Tom Clarke Bridge and Pigeon House Road

Dublin Port Company (DPC) has said that Dublin Port will reach its maximum throughput capacity some time between 2030 and 2040. This means additional port capacity will be needed elsewhere on the east coast of Ireland to cater for the growth which Dublin Port will not be able to accommodate once this point has been reached.

On the basis that building large new infrastructure takes twenty years or more from concept to completion, DPC is now beginning to plan the projects that will be needed if this additional capacity is to be available by 2040.

This was discussed recently on Afloat by Lorna Siggins in her podcast with Dublin Port Harbour Master Michael McKenna here and also by Afloat's WM Nixon here

New 3FM Project

In the meantime, DPC has confirmed it is preparing the third and final strategic infrastructure development project which will deliver the full capacity envisaged in the Dublin Port Masterplan 2040. This project is the 3FM Project and DPC has begun the first stage of public and stakeholder consultation prior to commencing pre-application consultation with An Bord Pleanála later this year. Completion of the 3FM Project is needed to provide the capacity required for growth up to 2040. If the 3FM Project were not to proceed, then Dublin Port would reach its limit closer to 2030.

Challenges & Costs

The final development projects at Dublin Port and projects to deliver new port capacity elsewhere are very challenging and it is important that there is an opportunity for informed debate and discussion on the environmental, planning and financing challenges which these projects create.

These challenges have been documented in a series of seven papers called the Dublin Port Post 2040 Dialogue here

Crucially, the papers present for the first time a considered view on the potential costs and the environmental impacts of building new greenfield port facilities elsewhere on the east coast of Ireland.

Building a new port at a greenfield site to be ready for operation by 2040 (referred to in the Dialogue papers as DP1.5) would cost in the region of €3.9 billion to €4.2 billion (at 2020 prices), assuming, of course, that the enormous challenges of financing and securing the necessary consents to deliver such a megaproject could be achieved.

DPC’s Viewpoint – Six Key Conclusions

From its analysis of the issues covered by the seven Dialogue papers, DPC has reached six key conclusions:

  • 1. Dublin Port Company must complete all of the projects outlined in Masterplan 2040 to deliver infrastructure with an annual throughput capacity of 77 million gross tonnes by 2040.
  • 2. Critically, this will require planning permission to be secured for the third and final Masterplan Project, the 3FM Project.
  • 3. The achievement of a throughput of 77 million gross tonnes per annum by 2040 will require not only the completion of all of the infrastructure projects in Masterplan 2040; it will also require that the efficiency of port operations greatly increases so that port infrastructure is utilised to its maximum. This will require the elimination of systemic inefficiencies in existing supply chain operations.
  • 4. Over the next 20 years, additional capacity at other existing east coast ports will be required so that, as Dublin Port approaches its ultimate capacity, volumes which Dublin cannot handle can be accommodated elsewhere.
  • 5. During these 20 years, DPC will need to work on the DP1.5 project so that it can be brought through the planning process and construction started by about 2033 should that become necessary.
  • 6. The projects to provide additional capacity in other ports and the project to construct DP1.5 can only be realised with State support – none of the projects and none of the port companies (including DPC) are capable of raising the project finance that would be required.

Alternative Viewpoints

DPC recognises that alternative viewpoints exist including a long-held view that Dublin Port should be moved from its current location, something DPC has consistently rejected over the years. In the Dialogue papers, DPC refers to the megaproject to relocate Dublin Port to another location as DP2.0 and has estimated that the cost to do this would be €8.3 billion (at 2020 prices) but that it would be near impossible to get planning permission because of environmental impacts.

The purpose of the Dublin Port Post 2040 Dialogue papers is to facilitate informed discussion and substantive engagement with DPC on several important questions, namely:

  • What level of port capacity will have to be provided to meet future demand on the east coast of Ireland over the next 20 years?
  • Where will this additional capacity be provided?
  • How will the projects needed to deliver this additional capacity be financed?

Opportunity for Dialogue

DPC is now inviting individuals and organisations, who may wish to challenge its thinking and put forward alternative ideas, to respond and share their views in writing by the end of June 2021 to [email protected]. Hard copies of the dialogue papers are available on request.

Anyone can be part of this dialogue, including those with an interest in the long-term development of Dublin Port and Dublin City. DPC will publish any alternative ideas or viewpoints for everyone to read alongside its own analysis on the Dialogue website at

By requesting and publishing alternative detailed views on how Dublin Port should be developed, DPC will be obliged to take account of these arguments in environmental assessments of any future projects the company brings forward for planning, notably the 3FM Project.

Eamonn O’Reilly, Chief Executive, Dublin Port Company, said: “We need to plan for how, when and where additional port capacity might be provided on the east coast of Ireland by 2040.

“We know from experience that twenty years is a relatively short period in the context of delivering large scale infrastructure projects, let alone a once in 200 years megaproject, which the construction of a new additional greenfield port would be.

“Consideration of any plan of this scale must take account of as wide a spectrum of viewpoints as possible. That is what the Dublin Port Post 2040 Dialogue is designed to facilitate, and I would encourage people and organisations to get involved. This is everyone’s opportunity to help answer important questions in the national interest about the environmental, planning and financial challenges that lie ahead in providing the future port capacity needed for the long-term.

“Our canvassing of views on the long-term provision of port capacity once Dublin Port reaches its limit some time between 2030 and 2040 coincides with DCC’s preparation of the Dublin City Development Plan 2022-2028, with NTA’s review of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area to cover the period 2022-2042 and with Government’s review of the National Development Plan as part of Project Ireland 2040. Ensuring there is enough port capacity for the decades and even centuries ahead requires coherence and co-ordination among all these plans and strategies.”

Published in Dublin Port Team

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About Dublin Port 

Dublin Port is Ireland’s largest and busiest port with approximately 17,000 vessel movements per year. As well as being the country’s largest port, Dublin Port has the highest rate of growth and, in the seven years to 2019, total cargo volumes grew by 36.1%.

The vision of Dublin Port Company is to have the required capacity to service the needs of its customers and the wider economy safely, efficiently and sustainably. Dublin Port will integrate with the City by enhancing the natural and built environments. The Port is being developed in line with Masterplan 2040.

Dublin Port Company is currently investing about €277 million on its Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR), which is due to be complete by 2021. The redevelopment will improve the port's capacity for large ships by deepening and lengthening 3km of its 7km of berths. The ABR is part of a €1bn capital programme up to 2028, which will also include initial work on the Dublin Port’s MP2 Project - a major capital development project proposal for works within the existing port lands in the northeastern part of the port.

Dublin Port has also recently secured planning approval for the development of the next phase of its inland port near Dublin Airport. The latest stage of the inland port will include a site with the capacity to store more than 2,000 shipping containers and infrastructures such as an ESB substation, an office building and gantry crane.

Dublin Port Company recently submitted a planning application for a €320 million project that aims to provide significant additional capacity at the facility within the port in order to cope with increases in trade up to 2040. The scheme will see a new roll-on/roll-off jetty built to handle ferries of up to 240 metres in length, as well as the redevelopment of an oil berth into a deep-water container berth.

Dublin Port FAQ

Dublin was little more than a monastic settlement until the Norse invasion in the 8th and 9th centuries when they selected the Liffey Estuary as their point of entry to the country as it provided relatively easy access to the central plains of Ireland. Trading with England and Europe followed which required port facilities, so the development of Dublin Port is inextricably linked to the development of Dublin City, so it is fair to say the origins of the Port go back over one thousand years. As a result, the modern organisation Dublin Port has a long and remarkable history, dating back over 300 years from 1707.

The original Port of Dublin was situated upriver, a few miles from its current location near the modern Civic Offices at Wood Quay and close to Christchurch Cathedral. The Port remained close to that area until the new Custom House opened in the 1790s. In medieval times Dublin shipped cattle hides to Britain and the continent, and the returning ships carried wine, pottery and other goods.

510 acres. The modern Dublin Port is located either side of the River Liffey, out to its mouth. On the north side of the river, the central part (205 hectares or 510 acres) of the Port lies at the end of East Wall and North Wall, from Alexandra Quay.

Dublin Port Company is a State-owned commercial company responsible for operating and developing Dublin Port.

Dublin Port Company is a self-financing, and profitable private limited company wholly-owned by the State, whose business is to manage Dublin Port, Ireland's premier Port. Established as a corporate entity in 1997, Dublin Port Company is responsible for the management, control, operation and development of the Port.

Captain William Bligh (of Mutiny of the Bounty fame) was a visitor to Dublin in 1800, and his visit to the capital had a lasting effect on the Port. Bligh's study of the currents in Dublin Bay provided the basis for the construction of the North Wall. This undertaking led to the growth of Bull Island to its present size.

Yes. Dublin Port is the largest freight and passenger port in Ireland. It handles almost 50% of all trade in the Republic of Ireland.

All cargo handling activities being carried out by private sector companies operating in intensely competitive markets within the Port. Dublin Port Company provides world-class facilities, services, accommodation and lands in the harbour for ships, goods and passengers.

Eamonn O'Reilly is the Dublin Port Chief Executive.

Capt. Michael McKenna is the Dublin Port Harbour Master

In 2019, 1,949,229 people came through the Port.

In 2019, there were 158 cruise liner visits.

In 2019, 9.4 million gross tonnes of exports were handled by Dublin Port.

In 2019, there were 7,898 ship arrivals.

In 2019, there was a gross tonnage of 38.1 million.

In 2019, there were 559,506 tourist vehicles.

There were 98,897 lorries in 2019

Boats can navigate the River Liffey into Dublin by using the navigational guidelines. Find the guidelines on this page here.

VHF channel 12. Commercial vessels using Dublin Port or Dun Laoghaire Port typically have a qualified pilot or certified master with proven local knowledge on board. They "listen out" on VHF channel 12 when in Dublin Port's jurisdiction.

A Dublin Bay webcam showing the south of the Bay at Dun Laoghaire and a distant view of Dublin Port Shipping is here
Dublin Port is creating a distributed museum on its lands in Dublin City.
 A Liffey Tolka Project cycle and pedestrian way is the key to link the elements of this distributed museum together.  The distributed museum starts at the Diving Bell and, over the course of 6.3km, will give Dubliners a real sense of the City, the Port and the Bay.  For visitors, it will be a unique eye-opening stroll and vista through and alongside one of Europe’s busiest ports:  Diving Bell along Sir John Rogerson’s Quay over the Samuel Beckett Bridge, past the Scherzer Bridge and down the North Wall Quay campshire to Berth 18 - 1.2 km.   Liffey Tolka Project - Tree-lined pedestrian and cycle route between the River Liffey and the Tolka Estuary - 1.4 km with a 300-metre spur along Alexandra Road to The Pumphouse (to be completed by Q1 2021) and another 200 metres to The Flour Mill.   Tolka Estuary Greenway - Construction of Phase 1 (1.9 km) starts in December 2020 and will be completed by Spring 2022.  Phase 2 (1.3 km) will be delivered within the following five years.  The Pumphouse is a heritage zone being created as part of the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project.  The first phase of 1.6 acres will be completed in early 2021 and will include historical port equipment and buildings and a large open space for exhibitions and performances.  It will be expanded in a subsequent phase to incorporate the Victorian Graving Dock No. 1 which will be excavated and revealed. 
 The largest component of the distributed museum will be The Flour Mill.  This involves the redevelopment of the former Odlums Flour Mill on Alexandra Road based on a masterplan completed by Grafton Architects to provide a mix of port operational uses, a National Maritime Archive, two 300 seat performance venues, working and studio spaces for artists and exhibition spaces.   The Flour Mill will be developed in stages over the remaining twenty years of Masterplan 2040 alongside major port infrastructure projects.

Source: Dublin Port Company ©Afloat 2020.