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Direct Container Service from Cork to US Celebrates its First Year in Operation

28th June 2021
Celebrating one year of direct container service from Cork to the USA are Conor Mowlds, Port of Cork’s Chief Commercial Officer; Paula Cogan, President of Cork Chamber and Captain Carlo Murakami of the container ship Independent Quest.’
Celebrating one year of direct container service from Cork to the USA are Conor Mowlds, Port of Cork’s Chief Commercial Officer; Paula Cogan, President of Cork Chamber and Captain Carlo Murakami of the container ship Independent Quest Credit: John Allen

The Port of Cork and Independent Container Line (ICL) jointly celebrated the shipping services first year in operation, in what can be described as a record first year. The direct deep-sea route which operates between Cork and US (East Coast) is the only direct route out of Ireland connecting to the USA.

ICL reported that trade exporting from Ireland has increased five-fold in its first year, and imports have doubled. General commodities handled on this service include refrigerated cargo (Pharma, Foodstuffs), Beverages, Healthcare Products, Building Materials, Chemicals, Auto Parts, Paper and Packaging Products.

A fast weekly service, 10 days to Chester PA, 13 days to Wilmington NC, gives exporters unprecedented opportunities to develop business in the USA. A carrier focused on customized logistics solutions, ICL also set up a weekly “guaranteed” Less than Container Load (LCL) service, in both directions, with Container Freight Stations (CFS’s) in Dublin and Cork.

Independent Container Line (ICL) cargo ship Independent SpiritIndependent Container Line (ICL) cargo ship Independent Spirit

Paul Sanders, ICL General Manager UK & Ireland said: ‘We’ve been very pleased with how our first year, calling directly into Cork, has developed. It has been especially pleasing given this has been done during a pandemic, which meant we could not visit or hold face to face meetings, ahead of starting the service. It’s a testament to the great partnership we’ve developed with the Port of Cork, that we have been able to make this happen.’

Connecting Ireland and the USA with a direct service made complete sense to ICL, and as a specialist North Atlantic carrier, ICL were perfectly suited to do this.

Mr Sanders continued: ‘The last 12 months has demonstrated not only our commitment, but our industry-recognised schedule reliability, and we only see further growth. ICL’s export volumes from Ireland have grown 500% during our 1st year, with import volumes also hugely increased, and we are continuing to see expansion as the year progresses.’

Conor Mowlds, Port of Cork’s Chief Commercial Officer congratulated ICL on their first year in operation saying: ‘The Port of Cork are delighted with the success of this direct route to the US which greatly enhances our Port connectivity. With Cork Container Terminal in Ringaskiddy on the horizon, we have the potential to further support ICL and grow cargo volumes from and to Ireland. This is a fantastic strategic development for the Port of Cork as we look to develop Ringaskiddy as a modern logistics hub.’

Conor Mowlds, Port of Cork’s Chief Commercial OfficerConor Mowlds, Port of Cork’s Chief Commercial Officer

Speaking at the anniversary of the direct ICL shipping route from the Port of Cork to the USA, Paula Cogan, President of Cork Chamber commented: ‘The direct shipping route from the Port of Cork to the USA with ICL has been an excellent strategic enhancement to connectivity for our city region and country. The Port’s ongoing investment in the €80 million Cork Container Terminal in Ringaskiddy is proving visionary and best in class infrastructure builds confidence and attracts investment. It is important now that Government supports the demand for connectivity with border and customs inspection infrastructure at the Port of Cork to allow this growth trajectory to continue.’

Seamus Fives, Site Leader, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals (Cork) and Chair of AmCham’s Southern Region said: ‘As the voice of over 800 US companies in Ireland, representing key exporting sectors such as Pharmaceuticals, ICT and Medical Technologies, the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland congratulates Independent Container Line(s) and the Port of Cork on the first anniversary of their direct shipping services to the East Coast of the US.’

He continued: ‘The value and importance of Ireland in Global Supply Chains have been reinforced throughout the pandemic. Ireland ranks 5th in the world for global exports of Covid-19 related goods. The Cork Port route to the US has offered greater accessibility for the movement of goods and services, which further strengthens our position as a global location of choice for inward investment.’

ICL have a long-established relationship with agent, Johnson Stevens (with offices in Dublin and Belfast) who handle all ICL’s operations.

Martina Creamer, Joint MD of Johnson Stevens said: ‘We are hugely proud to be managing this ground-breaking Trans-Atlantic service for ICL and have been delighted with the support from the Irish shipping community. We look forward to the new Cork Container Terminal opening soon, and further developing this great service.’

Published in Port of Cork
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Port of Cork Information

The Port of Cork is investing €80 million in a container terminal development in Ringaskiddy. The Cork Container Terminal will initially offer a 360-metre quay with 13-metre depth alongside and will enable larger ships to berth in the port. The development also includes the construction of a 13.5-hectare terminal and associated buildings as well as two ship to shore gantry cranes and container handling equipment.

The development of new container handling facilities at Ringaskiddy was identified in the Port of Cork’s Strategic Development Plan in 2010. It will accommodate current and future container shipping which can be serviced by modern and efficient cargo handling equipment with innovative terminal operating and vehicle booking systems. The Port of Cork anticipates that Cork Container Terminal will be operational in 2020.

The Port of Cork is the key seaport in the south of Ireland and is one of just two Irish ports which service the requirements of all shipping modes.

The Port of Cork also controls Bantry Bay Port Company and employs 150 people across all locations.

A European Designated Core Port and a Tier 1 Port of National Significance, Port of Cork’s reputation for quality service, including prompt and efficient vessel turnaround as well as the company’s investment in future growth, ensures its position as a vital link in the global supply chain.

The port has made impressive strides in recent decades, most recently with the construction of the new €80m Cork Container Terminal in Ringaskiddy which will facilitate the natural progression of the move from a river port to a deepwater port in order to future proof the Port
of Cork. This state-of-the-art terminal which will open in 2020 will be capable of berthing the largest container ships currently calling to Ireland.

The Port of Cork Company is a commercial semi-state company responsible for the commercial running of the harbour as well as responsibility for navigation and berthage in the port.  The Port is the main port serving the South of Ireland, County Cork and Cork City. 

Types of Shipping Using Port of Cork

The Port offers all six shipping modes from Lift-on Lift-off, Roll-on Roll-off, Liquid Bulk, Dry Bulk, Break Bulk and Cruise liner traffic.

Port of Cork Growth

The port has made impressive strides in recent decades. Since 2000, the Port of Cork has invested €72 million in improving Port infrastructure and facilities. Due to its favourable location and its modern deepwater facilities, the Port is ideally positioned for additional European trading as well as for yet unexploited direct deep-sea shipping services. A well-developed road infrastructure eases the flow of traffic from and to the port. The Port of Cork’s growing reputation for quality service, including prompt and efficient vessel turnaround, ensures its position as a vital link in the global supply chain. The Port of Cork Company turnover in 2018 amounted to €35.4 million, an increase of €3.9 million from €31.5 million in 2017. The combined traffic of both the Ports of Cork and Bantry increased to 10.66 million tonnes in 2018 up from 10.3 million tonnes in 2017.

History of Port of Cork

Famous at the last port of call of the Titanic, these medieval navigation and port facilities of the city and harbour were historically managed by the Cork Harbour Commissioners. Founded in 1814, the Cork Harbour Commissioners moved to the Custom House in 1904.  Following the implementation of the 1996 Harbours Act, by March 1997 all assets of the Commissioners were transferred to the Port of Cork Company.

Commercial Traffic at Port of Cork

Vessels up to 90,000 tonnes deadweight (DWT) are capable of coming through entrance to Cork Harbour. As the shipping channels get shallower the farther inland one travels, access becomes constricted, and only vessels up to 60,000 DWT can sail above Cobh. The Port of Cork provides pilotage and towage facilities for vessels entering Cork Harbour. All vessels accessing the quays in Cork City must be piloted and all vessels exceeding 130 metres in length must be piloted once they pass within 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 km) of the harbour entrance.

Berthing Facilities in Cork Harbour

The Port of Cork has berthing facilities at Cork City, Tivoli, Cobh and Ringaskiddy. The facilities in Cork City are primarily used for grain and oil transport. Tivoli provides container handling, facilities for oil, livestock and ore and a roll on-roll off (Ro-Ro) ramp. Prior to the opening of Ringaskiddy Ferry Port, car ferries sailed from here; now, the Ro-Ro ramp is used by companies importing cars into Ireland. In addition to the ferry terminal, Ringaskiddy has a deep water port.

Port of Cork Development Plans

2020 will be a significant year for the Port of Cork as it prepares to complete and open the €86 million Cork Container Terminal development in Ringaskiddy.

Once operational the new terminal will enable the port to handle up to 450,000 TEU per annum. Port of Cork already possess significant natural depth in Cork harbour, and the work in Ringaskiddy Port will enable the Port of Cork to accommodate vessels of 5500 to 6000 TEU, which will provide a great deal of additional potential for increasing container traffic.

It follows a previous plan hatched in 2006 as the port operated at full capacity the Port drew up plans for a new container facility at Ringaskiddy. This was the subject of major objections and after an Oral Planning Hearing was held in 2008 the Irish planning board Bord Pleanala rejected the plan due to inadequate rail and road links at the location.  

Bantry Port

In 2017 Bantry Bay Port Company completed a significant investment of €8.5 million in the Bantry Inner Harbour development. The development consisted of a leisure marina, widening of the town pier, dredging of the inner harbour and creation of a foreshore amenity space.

Port of Cork Cruise Liner Traffic

2019 was a record cruise season for the Port of Cork with 100 cruise liners visiting. In total over 243,000 passengers and crew visited the region with many passengers visiting Cork for the first time.

Also in 2019, the Port of Cork's Cruise line berth in Cobh was recognised as one of the best cruise destinations in the world, winning in the Top-Rated British Isles & Western Europe Cruise Destination category. 

There has been an increase in cruise ship visits to Cork Harbour in the early 21st century, with 53 such ships visiting the port in 2011, increasing to approximately 100 cruise ship visits by 2019.

These cruise ships berth at the Port of Cork's deepwater quay in Cobh, which is Ireland's only dedicated berth for cruise ships.

Passenger Ferries

Operating since the late 1970s, Brittany Ferries runs a ferry service to Roscoff in France. This operates between April and November from the Ro-Ro facilities at Ringaskiddy. Previous ferry services ran to Swansea in Wales and Santander in Spain. The former, the Swansea Cork ferry, ran initially between 1987 and 2006 and also briefly between 2010 and 2012.

The latter, a Brittany Ferries Cork–Santander service, started in 2018 but was cancelled in early 2020.

Marine Leisure

The Port of Cork has a strategy that aims to promote the harbour also as a leisure amenity. Cork’s superb natural harbour is a great place to enjoy all types of marine leisure pursuits. With lots of sailing and rowing clubs dotted throughout the harbour, excellent fishing and picturesque harbour-side paths for walking, running or cycling, there is something for everyone to enjoy in and around Cork harbour. The Port is actively involved with the promotion of Cork Harbour's annual Festival. The oldest sailing club in the world, founded in 1720, is the Royal Cork Yacht Club is located at Crosshaven in the harbour, proof positive, says the Port, that the people of Cork, and its visitors, have been enjoying this vast natural leisure resource for centuries. 

Port of Cork Executives

  • Chairman: John Mullins
  • Chief Executive: Brendan Keating
  • Secretary/Chief Finance Officer: Donal Crowley
  • Harbour Master and Chief Operations Officer: Capt. Paul O'Regan
  • Port Engineering Manager: Henry Kingston
  • Chief Commercial Officer: Conor Mowlds
  • Head of Human Resources: Peter O'Shaughnessy

At A Glance – Port of Cork

Type of port: deepwater, multi-model, Panamax, warm-water
Available berths: Up to ten
Wharves: 1
Employees: 113
Chief Executive: Brendan Keating
Annual cargo tonnage: 9,050,000
Annual container volume: 165,000

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