Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Port of Galway Secures EU Habitats Directive Derogation for Harbour Plan

16th April 2021
Galway Port, which is restricted by tide, applied in 2014 for a €126m expansion
Galway Port, which is restricted by tide, applied in 2014 for a €126m expansion Credit: Port of Galway

The Port of Galway has secured consent to provide compensatory habitat in return for its proposed harbour extension.

An Bord Pleanala has confirmed that the development qualifies to be considered under a derogation of the EU Habitats Directive, which allows projects to be built for "Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest". (IROPI).

The port, which is restricted by tide, applied in 2014 for a €126m expansion.

This would involve the reclamation of 24 hectares from the sea bed and extensive development of deepwater berth space.

Bord Pleanála said that certain elements of the proposed development would have a significant adverse impact on Galway bay, with permanent loss of reef, mud and sand habitats in a candidate special area of conservation.

In its submission, the port has offered compensatory habitat which it would restore.

An Bord Pleanála says it approved the IROPI case for several reasons:

It says it “concluded that the proposal presents an integrated development that enhances the social, economic and recreational benefits of the port for the wider benefit of the population of Galway and its regional hinterland”.

“The enhancement of port facilities also aligns with the European transportation policy promoting ‘short-sea shipping’ as a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternative to road transport,” it says.

“The enhancement of the port serving the region will therefore align with European, national and regional policies in favour of balanced spatial and economic development,” it says.

“The port and the tradition of maritime trade is fundamental not just to the economy of Galway but also to its culture and identity,” it says.

“The social and economic benefits of the project include positive impacts to tourism, marine research and development, including offshore renewable energy, urban regeneration and marine leisure opportunities,” it says.

Port of Galway chief executive officer Conor O’Dowd welcomed the confirmation as a “positive further step in the planning process”.

An Bord Pleanála says it has asked the Minister of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to “consider the adequacy of the compensatory measures proposed by the applicant”.

It has also asked the minister to “advise as to whether there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest to enable consideration of the proposed development to proceed”.

Published in Galway Harbour
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading 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. 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

Galway Port & Harbour

Galway Bay is a large bay on the west coast of Ireland, between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south. Galway city and port is located on the northeast side of the bay. The bay is about 50 kilometres (31 miles) long and from 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) to 30 kilometres (19 miles) in breadth.

The Aran Islands are to the west across the entrance and there are numerous small islands within the bay.

Galway Port FAQs

Galway was founded in the 13th century by the de Burgo family, and became an important seaport with sailing ships bearing wine imports and exports of fish, hides and wool.

Not as old as previously thought. Galway bay was once a series of lagoons, known as Loch Lurgan, plied by people in log canoes. Ancient tree stumps exposed by storms in 2010 have been dated back about 7,500 years.

It is about 660,000 tonnes as it is a tidal port.

Capt Brian Sheridan, who succeeded his late father, Capt Frank Sheridan

The dock gates open approximately two hours before high water and close at high water subject to ship movements on each tide.

The typical ship sizes are in the region of 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes

Turbines for about 14 wind projects have been imported in recent years, but the tonnage of these cargoes is light. A European industry report calculates that each turbine generates €10 million in locally generated revenue during construction and logistics/transport.

Yes, Iceland has selected Galway as European landing location for international telecommunications cables. Farice, a company wholly owned by the Icelandic Government, currently owns and operates two submarine cables linking Iceland to Northern Europe.

It is "very much a live project", Harbourmaster Capt Sheridan says, and the Port of Galway board is "awaiting the outcome of a Bord Pleanála determination", he says.

90% of the scrap steel is exported to Spain with the balance being shipped to Portugal. Since the pandemic, scrap steel is shipped to the Liverpool where it is either transhipped to larger ships bound for China.

It might look like silage, but in fact, its bales domestic and municipal waste, exported to Denmark where the waste is incinerated, and the heat is used in district heating of homes and schools. It is called RDF or Refuse Derived Fuel and has been exported out of Galway since 2013.

The new ferry is arriving at Galway Bay onboard the cargo ship SVENJA. The vessel is currently on passage to Belem, Brazil before making her way across the Atlantic to Galway.

Two Volvo round world races have selected Galway for the prestigious yacht race route. Some 10,000 people welcomed the boats in during its first stopover in 2009, when a festival was marked by stunning weather. It was also selected for the race finish in 2012. The Volvo has changed its name and is now known as the "Ocean Race". Capt Sheridan says that once port expansion and the re-urbanisation of the docklands is complete, the port will welcome the "ocean race, Clipper race, Tall Ships race, Small Ships Regatta and maybe the America's Cup right into the city centre...".

The pandemic was the reason why Seafest did not go ahead in Cork in 2020. Galway will welcome Seafest back after it calls to Waterford and Limerick, thus having been to all the Port cities.

© Afloat 2020