Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Is The Future Of Dun Laoghaire Harbour Being Held Hostage?

11th December 2015
Mein_Schiff_ship_dun_laoghaire
At almost 100,000 tonnes, the very large cruiseship, Mein Schiff 4 with a passenger capacity for 2,506 is seen anchored less than one nautical mile off the East Pier, Dun Laoghaire Harbour Credit: Jehan Ashmore

As Dun Laoghaire residents await An Bord Pleanála's decision on the controversial cruise liner berth proposed for the town's harbour, local banker Paddy Shanahan took a look at the books of the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company (DLHC) – and finds the whole situation wanting. Harbour CEO Gerry Dunne's response is also posted below.

I am a banker with over 30 years' experience working in New York and London. I have recently returned to Ireland. I am married with two small boys and I run a corporate finance and restructuring practice here in Dublin. I live in Sandycove and am part of Dublin Bay Concern, an organisation comprising many residents of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown (DLR).

My concern relates to the future status of the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company (DLHC). I am opposed to the planned super cruise berth terminal for the harbour and to the Masterplan submitted by the DLHC. An Bord Pleanála is currently deliberating on DLHC’s application following a month-long oral hearing.

Meanwhile, the Harbours Bill 2015 was recently introduced into the Oireachtas. This bill will decide the future of DLHC. We are presented with two options, one of which will be decided by Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe:

a) DLHC becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of the chief executive DLR CoCo.
b) DLHC is dissolved and integrated into DLR CoCo.

On a matter of profound importance to the residents of DLR and to the hundreds of thousands who use the harbour as an amenity every year, there has been little to no communication by the relevant elected representatives back to their constituents on this matter, excepting Richard Boyd Barrett and his party People Before Profit.

Difficult financial situation

On my own volition, I obtained copies of DLHC’s accounts from 2012 to 2014. I have analysed these accounts and found the following:

DLHC’s financial position has been declining in recent years. In 2012 the company’s cash reserves declined by €2.0m and in 2013 by a further €1.3m. The decline in cash was much smaller in 2014 (€37,000) thanks to the receipt of a €406,420 grant, the provenance of which and use for is unidentified in their accounts.

At the end of 2014, DLHC had cash reserves of €3.5m. With no revenue from the Stena HSS in 2015, remaining cash reserves of €3.5m are rapidly dwindling.

DLHC had bank loans of €4.8m at the end of 2014 for which it does not appear to have sufficient cash or the prospect of sufficient cash to repay in future years.

Based on the above facts, it is clear to me that DLHC is in a difficult financial situation and has neither the reserves nor the ability to borrow the funds required to build the proposed cruise berth.

Notwithstanding its precarious financial position and ignoring the implications to the well-being of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, DLHC wishes to roll the dice and stake its future on providing giant cruise berth facilities – this despite the reality of Dublin Port.

Less than 5km from Dun Laoghaire, Dublin Port is a highly profitable world-class shipping port, and it is the preferred cruise ship destination offering quick access to Dublin city centre. It already receives over 80 super-sized cruise ships a year and has recently received planning permission to begin a €200m development which will double its large cruise ship capacity together with a state-of-the-art modern passenger terminal specifically being built for visiting cruise liners.

DLHC proposes a collusive duopoly for the cruise ship business with Dublin Port. Not only is this stupendously naïve, it is also illegal for State-owned bodies to distort the competitive environment, and elegantly demonstrates the flawed business case DLHC proposes – especially in light of the Stena HSS departing for good under DLHC’s watch.

'A likely white elephant'

The Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies issued by the Department of Finance in March 1992 and updated October 2001 states that:

“As the ultimate owners of, and investors, in State bodies, citizens and taxpayers have an important and legitimate interest in the achievement of value for money in the State sector. Whether commissioning public services or providing them directly, State bodies have a duty to strive for economy, efficiency, transparency and effectiveness in their expenditure.”

In 2012 and 2013 DLHC received €250,000 and €200,000 in grants from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCoCo) in respect of DLHC’S Large Cruise Liners initiative. The former was for tendering facilities outside the harbour mouth; the latter was toward defraying costs relating to the planning application.

If it transpires that the €400,000 grant unidentified in the accounts for 2014 was from DLRCoCo, then it would appear that nearly €1m of DLR taxpayers' money has been paid over by the council toward the planning costs of building a likely white elephant.

Is it unreasonable to posit a conflict of interest where the executive branch of DLRCoCo making the payments to DLHC houses the same department that approved the planning application currently being decided by An Bord Pleanála? Is this like Hamlet without the prince? Have DLHC fulfilled their obligations under the code regarding transparency and governance? Clearly not. Where is the oversight? There isn’t any.

Allowing true oversight

Addressing the Dáil on the occasion of the Harbours Bill 2015 debate on amendments last Wednesday 2 December, Minister Donohoe specified there is to be an undefined period of due diligence and examination of DLHC prior to its future being decided by himself.

In the interests of democracy let us hope the minister dissolves the DLHC and transfers its unencumbered assets to the local authority, thus allowing true oversight and accountability.

Given the close relationship and history between the non-elected executive branch of DLRCoCo and DLHC, a decision by the minister that makes the DLHC a wholly owned subsidiary of the chief executive will be a step backwards and simply perpetuates the current unsatisfactory status quo.

The future of Dun Laoghaire Harbour should be decided by the elected representatives of DLRCoCo, the harbour’s genuine stakeholders, and its various community groups.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour, dear to the hearts of all residents of DLR, is being held hostage to the ambitions of a dysfunctional organisation that is running out of money and being supported in a clandestine manner against all principles of transparency and governance.

Response from Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company CEO

DLHC has decided that it is not appropriate to make further public comment while An Bord Pleanala is considering our planning application.
Suffice to make the following brief points ;
[a] the European Commission have stated that the grant of €20m towards the Dublin Port development is made on the basis that such support is not given to dedicated infrastructure and facilities for cruise ships. Therefore, Mr Shanahan is fundamentally incorrect in his belief that Dublin Port can provide dedicated cruise infrastructure/facilities
[b] Mr Shanahan might be very interested to know that the four Dun Laoghaire yacht clubs combined make only a very minor financial contribution of c.€70k annually towards the upkeep/maintenance of the infrastructure of the 200 year old man-made harbour. This annual contribution constitutes less than 2% of our annual operating/capital costs.

Gerry Dunne, CEO DLHC

Afloat.ie Team

About The Author

Afloat.ie Team

Email The Author

Afloat.ie is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Information

Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the second port for Dublin and is located on the south shore of Dublin Bay. Marine uses for this 200-year-old man-made harbour have changed over its lifetime. Originally built as a port of refuge for sailing ships entering the narrow channel at Dublin Port, the harbour has had a continuous ferry link with Wales and this was the principal activity of the harbour until the service stopped in 2015. In all this time, however, one thing has remained constant and that is the popularity for sailing and boating from the port, making it Ireland's marine leisure capital with a harbour fleet of over 1,200-1.600 pleasure craft.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Bye-Laws

Download the bye-laws on this link here

FAQs

A live stream Dublin Bay webcam showing Dun Laoghaire Harbour entrance and East Pier is here

Dun Laoghaire is a Dublin suburb situated on the south side of Dublin Bay, approximately, 15km from Dublin city centre.

The east and west piers of the harbour are each of 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) long.

The harbour entrance is 232 metres (761 ft) across from East to West Pier.

  • Public Boatyard
  • Public slipway
  • Public Marina

23 clubs, 14 activity providers and eight state-related organisations operate from Dun Laoghaire Harbour that facilitates a full range of sports - Sailing, Rowing, Diving, Windsurfing, Angling, Canoeing, Swimming, Triathlon, Powerboating, Kayaking and Paddleboarding. Participants include members of the public, club members, tourists, disabled, disadvantaged, event competitors, schools, youth groups and college students.

  • Commissioners of Irish Lights
  • Dun Laoghaire Marina
  • MGM Boats & Boatyard
  • Coastguard
  • Naval Service Reserve
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution
  • Marine Activity Centre
  • Rowing clubs
  • Yachting and Sailing Clubs
  • Sailing Schools
  • Irish Olympic Sailing Team
  • Chandlery & Boat Supply Stores

The east and west granite-built piers of Dun Laoghaire harbour are each of one kilometre (0.62 mi) long and enclose an area of 250 acres (1.0 km2) with the harbour entrance being 232 metres (761 ft) in width.

In 2018, the ownership of the great granite was transferred in its entirety to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council who now operate and manage the harbour. Prior to that, the harbour was operated by The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, a state company, dissolved in 2018 under the Ports Act.

  • 1817 - Construction of the East Pier to a design by John Rennie began in 1817 with Earl Whitworth Lord Lieutenant of Ireland laying the first stone.
  • 1820 - Rennie had concerns a single pier would be subject to silting, and by 1820 gained support for the construction of the West pier to begin shortly afterwards. When King George IV left Ireland from the harbour in 1820, Dunleary was renamed Kingstown, a name that was to remain in use for nearly 100 years. The harbour was named the Royal Harbour of George the Fourth which seems not to have remained for so long.
  • 1824 - saw over 3,000 boats shelter in the partially completed harbour, but it also saw the beginning of operations off the North Wall which alleviated many of the issues ships were having accessing Dublin Port.
  • 1826 - Kingstown harbour gained the important mail packet service which at the time was under the stewardship of the Admiralty with a wharf completed on the East Pier in the following year. The service was transferred from Howth whose harbour had suffered from silting and the need for frequent dredging.
  • 1831 - Royal Irish Yacht Club founded
  • 1837 - saw the creation of Victoria Wharf, since renamed St. Michael's Wharf with the D&KR extended and a new terminus created convenient to the wharf.[8] The extended line had cut a chord across the old harbour with the landward pool so created later filled in.
  • 1838 - Royal St George Yacht Club founded
  • 1842 - By this time the largest man-made harbour in Western Europe had been completed with the construction of the East Pier lighthouse.
  • 1855 - The harbour was further enhanced by the completion of Traders Wharf in 1855 and Carlisle Pier in 1856. The mid-1850s also saw the completion of the West Pier lighthouse. The railway was connected to Bray in 1856
  • 1871 - National Yacht Club founded
  • 1884 - Dublin Bay Sailing Club founded
  • 1918 - The Mailboat, “The RMS Leinster” sailed out of Dún Laoghaire with 685 people on board. 22 were post office workers sorting the mail; 70 were crew and the vast majority of the passengers were soldiers returning to the battlefields of World War I. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat near the Kish lighthouse killing many of those onboard.
  • 1920 - Kingstown reverted to the name Dún Laoghaire in 1920 and in 1924 the harbour was officially renamed "Dun Laoghaire Harbour"
  • 1944 - a diaphone fog signal was installed at the East Pier
  • 1965 - Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club founded
  • 1968 - The East Pier lighthouse station switched from vapourised paraffin to electricity, and became unmanned. The new candle-power was 226,000
  • 1977- A flying boat landed in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, one of the most unusual visitors
  • 1978 - Irish National Sailing School founded
  • 1934 - saw the Dublin and Kingstown Railway begin operations from their terminus at Westland Row to a terminus at the West Pier which began at the old harbour
  • 2001 - Dun Laoghaire Marina opens with 500 berths
  • 2015 - Ferry services cease bringing to an end a 200-year continuous link with Wales.
  • 2017- Bicentenary celebrations and time capsule laid.
  • 2018 - Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company dissolved, the harbour is transferred into the hands of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

From East pier to West Pier the waterfront clubs are:

  • National Yacht Club. Read latest NYC news here
  • Royal St. George Yacht Club. Read latest RSTGYC news here
  • Royal Irish Yacht Club. Read latest RIYC news here
  • Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. Read latest DMYC news here

 

The umbrella organisation that organises weekly racing in summer and winter on Dublin Bay for all the yacht clubs is Dublin Bay Sailing Club. It has no clubhouse of its own but operates through the clubs with two x Committee vessels and a starters hut on the West Pier. Read the latest DBSC news here.

The sailing community is a key stakeholder in Dún Laoghaire. The clubs attract many visitors from home and abroad and attract major international sailing events to the harbour.

 

Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Dun Laoghaire's biennial town regatta was started in 2005 as a joint cooperation by the town's major yacht clubs. It was an immediate success and is now in its eighth edition and has become Ireland's biggest sailing event. The combined club's regatta is held in the first week of July.

  • Attracts 500 boats and more from overseas and around the country
  • Four-day championship involving 2,500 sailors with supporting family and friends
  • Economic study carried out by the Irish Marine Federation estimated the economic value of the 2009 Regatta at €2.5 million

The dates for the 2021 edition of Ireland's biggest sailing event on Dublin Bay is: 8-11 July 2021. More details here

Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Offshore Race

The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race is a 320-miles race down the East coast of Ireland, across the south coast and into Dingle harbour in County Kerry. The latest news on the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race can be found by clicking on the link here. The race is organised by the National Yacht Club.

The 2021 Race will start from the National Yacht Club on Wednesday 9th, June 2021.

Round Ireland Yacht Race

This is a Wicklow Sailing Club race but in 2013 the Garden County Club made an arrangement that sees see entries berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for scrutineering prior to the biennial 704–mile race start off Wicklow harbour. Larger boats have been unable to berth in the confines of Wicklow harbour, a factor WSC believes has restricted the growth of the Round Ireland fleet. 'It means we can now encourage larger boats that have shown an interest in competing but we have been unable to cater for in Wicklow' harbour, WSC Commodore Peter Shearer told Afloat.ie here. The race also holds a pre-ace launch party at the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

Laser Masters World Championship 2018

  • 301 boats from 25 nations

Laser Radial World Championship 2016

  • 436 competitors from 48 nations

ISAF Youth Worlds 2012

  • The Youth Olympics of Sailing run on behalf of World Sailing in 2012.
  • Two-week event attracting 61 nations, 255 boats, 450 volunteers.
  • Generated 9,000 bed nights and valued at €9 million to the local economy.

The Harbour Police are authorised by the company to police the harbour and to enforce and implement bye-laws within the harbour, and all regulations made by the company in relation to the harbour.

There are four ship/ferry berths in Dun Laoghaire:

  • No 1 berth (East Pier)
  • No 2 berth (east side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 3 berth (west side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 4 berth  (St, Michaels Wharf)

Berthing facilities for smaller craft exist in the town's 800-berth marina and on swinging moorings.

© Afloat 2020

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating