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#Maritime - Is Ireland a model to follow when it comes to maritime strategy?

It is according to Simon Mercieca of the University of Malta, who blogs on the Malta Independent website about the need for his country to take lessons from the Irish experience.

Citing his visit to a maritime history conference at University College Cork late last year, Dr Mercieca is full of praise for Marine Minister Simon Coveney and his department's focus on revitalising Ireland's ports and coastal areas.

That stands in stark contrast to the situation on Malta as Dr Mercieca would have it, describing a country where maritime "is today a non-entity in our political discussion".

"Despite the fact that Malta built its fortune on its geographical position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the country now lacks a serious maritime vision."

The Malta Independent has more on the story HERE.

Published in Ports & Shipping
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#ports – 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 & Sport Leo Varadkar has announced. The Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2014 will allow the five designated Ports of Regional Significance in Drogheda, Dún 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 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 84% of Ireland's trade in volume and 62% 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 & Communications for detailed consideration by all its members.

Details of draft Bill

The main purpose of the Bill is to provide the necessary amendments to allow for a later transfer of the five designated Ports of Regional Significance - Drogheda, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow - to local authority ownership

The Bill provides for flexibility in the form of the actual transfer, which may be a transfer of Ministerial shareholding in the existing company, or a dissolution of the company structure and full integration within local authority structures.

The second major theme of the Bill is to further improve the board selection and appointment process to the Ports of National Significance at Dublin, Cork, Shannon Foynes and Waterford such as by specifying certain required skillsets, introducing term limits and requiring Chairpersons designate appear before the relevant Oireachtas committee prior to appointment.

Published in Ports & Shipping
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#Cruises - Cruise Ireland's members will meet in January to discuss controversial proposals to change the way the organisation is funded.

At November's board meeting of the industry body representing interests in the Irish cruise industry, the Port of Cork's commercial manager Michael McCarthy charged that Ireland's biggest ports in Dublin and Cork should no longer be Cruise Ireland's primary funders.

McCarthy cited the wish for greater contributions from other tourist venues that reap the biggest business from Ireland's cruise traffic.

Echoing his sentiments, Cruise Ireland chair Eamonn O'Reilly noted that the body's current subscription model of 'the bigger you are, the more you pay' was no longer tenable in an increasingly competitive cruise marketplace - in light of plans by Dun Laoghaire, among other ports, to attract cruise liners.

O'Reilly, who is chief executive of the Dublin Port Company, proposed of a flat membership fee of €10,000 - which was objected to by a number of those present.

And though the matter was deferred for further discussion in the New Year, O'Relly shared Dublin Port's position that it would not not commit to funding Cruise Ireland under the current model beyond 2014.

Other matters discussed at November's meeting included a review of Cruise Ireland's marketing strategy at important international trade shows, in order to more effectively sell Ireland as a key European cruise destination.

Cruise Ireland's next meeting will take place on 21 January 2014.

Published in Cruise Liners

#ports – The Competition Authority has today published a study of competition in the ports sector in Ireland which found competition in port services could be improved. The study was commissioned by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, TD, as part of the Action Plan for Jobs 2012. The study looks at how competition is working between ports and within individual ports in Ireland.

The key findings of the study are:

The characteristics of the ports sector in Ireland mean that competition between ports is always going to be limited - principally for historical and geographical reasons.

Making sure that competition within a port is working well for each service provided within a port is therefore especially important.

The leasing and licensing arrangements for Lo-Lo (load on-load off) terminal operators in Dublin Port are too long and appear to restrict competition.

The current licensing arrangements for stevedore services in Dublin Port also appear to restrict competition.

More data collection and performance measures are needed for effective oversight of the ports sector.

As an island, Ireland is heavily dependent on its ports. Exports have been Ireland's only net contributor to economic growth in recent years. So ensuring that competition is working as well as it can and increasing Ireland's ability to trade internationally is vital. The Authority has made six recommendations aimed at improving competition in the ports sector.

Recommendation 1 – Leasing and licensing of Dublin Lo-Lo terminals: The way that leasing and licensing of Dublin Lo-Lo terminals is managed should be changed to substantially reduce the duration of the leases (sometimes over 100 years) and to change the way in which licences are automatically renewed.

Recommendation 2 – Stevedore licensing: In Dublin Port, at least two new general stevedore licences should be issued. General stevedore licences should be granted to applicants on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis, or through a tendering process. General stevedore licences should not be automatically renewable. Ports should not require applicants to demonstrate that they will attract new business to the port. Self handling licences should be granted by Dublin Port Company on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis. Where stevedore services are provided exclusively by the port directly, this should be clearly justified by the port authorities in question.

Recommendation 3 – Port closure and amalgamation: Policy focus should be on preserving competition and ensuring larger ports are operating efficiently and competing with one another. While port closures may result in lower administrative costs, they are unlikely to enhance competition among ports. The Authority recommends that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport should be required to seek the views of the Authority on any proposed port mergers, or that ports with turnovers below the existing merger thresholds should be designated as a class of merger that must be notified to the Competition Authority regardless of whether it meets the merger thresholds.

Recommendation 4 – Management models: The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport should ensure that effective competition within ports is a key objective for port authorities.

Recommendation 5 – Investment in port-related road and rail infrastructure: It is unlikely that future Government investment in port-related road and rail infrastructure could be justified purely on the grounds of improving competition, and therefore any decision to invest in infrastructure in this context should be carefully considered.

Recommendation 6 – Data collection and performance measures: Data collection and port performance measures are vital in order to analyse the level of competition within the sector and to guide future policy-making. However this study has highlighted a lack of both. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport should prioritise the development of performance measures and data collection for the main ports.

Commenting on the report, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said, "A strong export performance will be crucial to the recovery in the economy and jobs market we are working so hard to achieve. That is why providing better supports and a better environment for exporters is at the centre of our Action Plan for Jobs. As part of this drive, I asked the Competition Authority to carry out a study on how competition in our ports sector can be improved, in order to make it easier and cheaper for our exporters to do business. The report produced today is an excellent piece of work, and Government will study its recommendations in detail and take appropriate action. This will ensure that we continue to improve the environment for exporters and support the growth in jobs and the economy we need".

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar TD said, "The Competition Authority report into the ports sector is a thorough report and it complements the National Ports Policy which I published earlier this year. When I was in opposition, I was critical of how reports commissioned by the government of the time were published and then left on a shelf. I am determined to ensure this does not happen under the current Government. My Department will now consider these recommendations in detail and within six months will reply to the Competition Authority with a 'reasoned response' stating in each case whether we accept or reject the individual recommendations and explaining why."

Isolde Goggin, Chairperson of the Competition Authority, said, "This is the first comprehensive study of competition in the Irish ports sector. It should therefore be of benefit to providers and users of ports services and transport policymakers generally. I believe that implementing these recommendations will help to improve competition in the ports sector which plays a hugely important role in contributing to Ireland's competitiveness and economic growth. They will help to improve economic and consumer welfare as Ireland continues its path to economic recovery."

The full report is available to download below as a PDF attachment. 

The Competition Authority is the State body responsible for enforcing Irish and European competition law in Ireland. Our mission is to ensure that markets work well for Irish consumers, business and the economy.

The Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency are to merge to create a new organisation with a dual mandate to protect consumers and enforce competition law. Both organisations continue to operate and perform their statutory functions until the merger is given effect.

Published in Ports & Shipping

#Offshore - A retired US couple bound for Ireland on their sailing yacht encountered a storm of a different kind when they sought safety from hurricane-force winds in the Port of New Bedford.

According to Massachusetts news site South Coast Today, Gary and Jodi Bratton last month attempted to drop anchor in the harbour, a federally designated anchoring area - but were blocked by New Bedford's Harbour Development Commission, who demanded they either anchor beyond the hurricane barrier or take a city mooring charged at $45 per night.

"The right of navigation comes with it the right to anchorage," said Gary Bratton, who was headed to Galway Bay with his wife. "We didn't feel like we were in a position to negotiate. We're in trouble. We're hurt."

But morning manager Bob Bouley defended the harbour's actions, noting that visiting boaters are being discouraged from anchoring in the area for safety reasons due to construction work around the port's south terminal.

New Bedford shows as a harbour of refuge on US federal charts, says local yachtsman Jeff Pontiff, who adds that the harbour company has had some difficulties reconciling this with the operation of its busy shipping port.

South Coast Today has more on the story HERE.

Published in Offshore
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#MaritimeDay - Malta has recently hosted the 6th European Maritime Day, (see Afloat.ie's Water Rats), where a conference of experts from all maritime sectors from around Europe had gathered.

Delegates discussed how to promote the tourism industry and maintain its position not only as a sector for sustainable growth, but also as a means to help in the restoration of the wider economy and a key contributor to the EU's Blue Growth agenda.

The European Maritime Day was organised by the European Commission (DG for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) in partnership with the Maltese Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, and the Maltese Ministry for Tourism.

The Marine Institute welcomed the speech made by Dinny McGinley's TD, Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht at the conference, where he said "In Ireland, our ocean is a national asset, supporting a diverse marine economy, with vast potential to tap into a €1,200 billion global marine market for seafood, tourism, oil and gas, marine renewable energy, and new applications for health, medicine and technology"

"Blue Growth is one of the priority areas in our Presidency programme and in particular the development of an Action Plan for the Atlantic Strategy, which will be launched in Galway later this week by Commissioner Damanaki. The Action Plan identifies a range of actions designed to deliver smart, sustainable and socially inclusive growth and jobs, included in the area of maritime and coastal tourism," he said.

Minister McGinley further highlighted the importance of The Integrated Marine Plan – Harnessing our Ocean Wealth, launched last year by the Irish Government. This Plan is providing momentum for growth in the marine area in Ireland. In particular he spoke of the projects including the development of the National Necklace of Lighthouses which is being organised by The Commissioners of Irish Lights and Fáilte Ireland.

The Minister also spoke of the projects including the Wild Atlantic Way – Ireland's first long distance driving route along the west coast covering 2,500 kilometre route and the Sail West project which was an INTERREG IVA cross boarder funded programme that has now been successfully implemented by Donegal County Council as lead partners.

Mrs Caroline Bocquel, Director of Corporate Services at the Marine Institute also chaired a workshop entitled "The EU Integrated Maritime Policy and human health and well-being: What's the connection?".

The workshop focused on the relationships between marine environmental health and human health. Speakers highlighted the need for a coordinated oceans and human health research programme in Europe, addressing real public health challenges associated with our interactions with the seas presented in the context of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy.

The European Maritime Day is an annual event celebrated on the 20th May since 2008. It was established jointly by the European Council, the European Parliament and European Commission as part of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy, which was launched in 2007.

The conference event is organised in a different European country each year where it aims to highlight the crucial role that oceans and seas play in the everyday life of all EU citizens.

Countries that have hosted this event include Brussels 2008, Rome 2009, Gijon 2010, Gdansk 2011, and Gothenburg 2012.

 

Published in Ports & Shipping

The volume of cargo shipped though our ports saw a small overall increase last year with two of the five principle cargo segments experiencing growth. This is according to the latest annual edition of the 10th Annual Irish Maritime Transport Economist. This year's publication also included the launch of the IMDO's inaugural iShip Index* which was released at an industry briefing in Dublin, today (April 24th) by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO). The new iShip Index is a quarterly weighted indicator which gauges the health of the Irish shipping industry and the wider economy. The iShip Index showed a one per cent1% increase in overall shipping activity across the State during 2012.

Speaking at the launch of the 10th publication, IMDO Director Mr. Glenn Murphy said, "Over the past decade Irish ports have handled just under half of a billion tonnes of cargo, while more than 27 million container and trailer units passed through ports on the Island of Ireland. During this time, we have seen the highest volume rises followed by record declines. Our publication clearly illustrates the relationship between the maritime economy and the real Irish economy. While not an absolute indicator in its own right, the shipping data gives us a strong impression of changes in the domestic economy; about patterns of consumption behaviour; and also indigenous export output."

Demand over 2012 was relatively lacklustre for the Irish ports and shipping sector with growth limited to a small number of commodities in the bulk market segments. Growth in the dry bulk segment was better than expected, up overall by 7% to 14.9 million tonnes and boosted by strong input demands from the agricultural sector. This was heavily driven by a 34% increase in bulk animal feed which was in part influenced by the heavy rainfall that occurred over the summer and autumn seasons last year.

Elsewhere traffic volumes in the headline unit load shipping markets were down during 2012. Overall container traffic fell by 3% to 775,000 teu (twenty foot equivalent unit). One note of concern was the decline in exports (-2%). We initially observed an export slowdown in our 3rd quarter maritime review in 2011, with this trend persisting over the course of 2012 before turning negative in the second quarter of the year. However, exports to some longhaul markets in Asia, Africa and South America continued to show some positive signs of growth. Container imports remained negative (-3%), despite the rate of decline easing to its lowest level since 2007. The UK, our largest trading partner, returned to recession during 2012, resulting in weaker demand for the main ro/ro operators serving these markets with total volumes falling by 2% to 1.57 million freight units. Direct traffic to continental Europe, a subset of this market, increased by 5%.

Commenting on the report Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar TD, stated, "This year's publication clearly articulates the challenging business environment our maritime transport sector faces, but importantly also makes the point that the worst of the economic storm appears to have passed and that we are now transitioning on a course towards more sustainable economic growth."

The outlook for 2013 remains broadly similar to 2012 and we expect most markets to remain relatively flat for most of the year, although we are cautiously optimistic about the possibility for an upturn in some segments over the latter half of the year.

KEY INDICATORS:

iShip Index: +1%
Bulk Traffic: +10%   (Includes oil, dry bulk commodities & break bulk)
Lo/Lo Traffic: -3%    (Lift on/Lift off container market)
Ro/Ro Traffic: -2%   (Roll on/Roll off)

Published in Ports & Shipping
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#MarineNotice - Marine Notice No 17 of 2013 from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) advises on two minor amendments to ship security plans and on-board retention of security records, in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 725/2004 and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code).

Firstly, and with immediate effect, there is no requirement to inform the Marine Survey Office of minor amendments to ship security plans.

Such minor amendments include amendments to contact details of shipping company personnel, and may also include other minor adjustments to the text. Minor amendments are such that the structure, scope and implementing measures contained in the plan are not amended.

If in any doubt the company security officer should contact the Marine Survey Office for further guidance. All amendments should be recorded appropriately.

Secondly, the DTTAS advises that, with immediate effect, the minimum period for the retention of security records on board (relating to drills, exercises, declarations of security, etc) is reduced to three years.

Published in Ports & Shipping

#ports – None of the nine state owned Irish ports are to be privatised but local authorities are to become shareholders in regional ports and private investment will be welcome too, according to the National Ports plan launched this afternoon.

Plans to radically overhaul Ireland’s commercial ports and give Government a more hands-on role in the maritime ports sector were unveiled by Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar.

The policy sees four major areas of reform and a warning that much more is expected of every port in terms of its commercial return to the state.

Up until recently a dividend has only been paid by Dublin Port but recently other Ports have begun to pay dividends too, Varadkar told reporters this afternoon.

The new National Ports Policy aims to harness the potential of every port in Ireland. Shareholders will be encouraged to take an activist approach to managing their ports to ensure the State gets best value from these crucial facilities, whether that shareholder is the Government or the local authority.

Previous policies have not recognised the huge diversity among the 19 ports that handle commercial freight. The core objective of the new National Ports Policy is to facilitate a competitive and effective market for maritime transport services.

Although ports will be key players in Ireland's future economic recovery the significance of the ports sector as part of national infrastructure is not well appreciated but this policy says Varadkar is 'a championing document for all ports'.

Ports are to be designated in different tiers. Dublin Port, Port of Cork and Shannon Foynes are Tier 1 and ports of national significance. There is also a second tier of nationally significant ports namely; Waterford and Rosslare. With 95% of everything coming into this country arriving by ship, these five ports are the life blood of trade and play a significant role in the well being of the State.

“Our commercial ports are vital to our economic recovery and to future economic growth. They are the gateways for most of our merchandise trade, and for significant numbers of tourists and passengers. This new ports policy encourages each port, large or small, to develop its full potential to ensure that each one can contribute to further growth in the ports sector,” the Minister said.

These ports are charged with leading the response to national capacity requirements, something that is long overdue because port capacity has not been matching growth in traffic for either unitised and non–unitised cargo.

The policy follows the launch of a 30–year masterplan for Dublin Port Company a year ago and the launch of the Shannon Estuary master plan last month.

Already there has been evidence of recovery in port volumes, a key indicator of economic activity. Total exports in the Irish economy last year hit their highest level ever at 16 per cent above the pre-crisis high. The Port of Cork bucked a trend last August when it announced a 5% upwards trend in traffic.

All other ports are classed as having 'regional significance' and must develop in line with local requirements. In Dun Laoghaire for example where the harbour is in the middle of the town the port expected to focus on tourism, cruise liners and marine leisure activity.

The plan to move ports into the control of the local authorities will require legislation and this may take a year and a half to complete.

Ports will have to develop dividend policies for the second quarter of this year and they must develop a port performance management system by 2015.

Changes are to be made to the board appointment process and management too.

The ports policy has been shaped with the Department of the Marine's Oceanwealth initiative and it also takes into account a new foreshore regime being developed by the Department of the Environment.

The main features of the new policy are:

·         Instead of adopting a ‘laissez faire’ approach, the Government will become a more active or activist shareholder;

·         Private investment in the ports will be encouraged;

·         Move from a ‘one size fits all’ policy to one that recognises that different ports have different roles to play, now and in the future. In recognising the different roles of each port, this policy determines which are of National Significance and have a national function, and which are of Regional Significance with a specialist significance at national level:

o   Ports of National Significance (Tier 1) are designated as: Dublin Port Company, the Port of Cork Company and Shannon Foynes Port;

o   Ports of National Significance (Tier 2) are designated as Rosslare Europort and the Port of Waterford Company;

o   Ports of Regional Significance: The remaining 14 ports account for 8% of national trade, but many have national significance in terms of specialist services or products. These include the five State companies at Drogheda, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow. These Ports of Regional Significance will be placed within a local authority-led governance structure with local authorities taking shareholdings in the ports.

·         Future investment in deepwater capacity, when needed, will not occur until it has been subjected to stringent analysis commissioned by the Department, and will be led by the national ports;

·         The commercial mandate of ports will remain. They will be expected to turn a profit, pay a dividend and will not receive Exchequer grants.

The new policy will allow for appropriate private-sector investment in ports. A new performance oversight system, and a new approach to capacity planning, will be developed to make sure that all ports are fulfilling their potential.

Welcoming the publication of the National Ports Policy, the Director of the Irish Maritime Development Office Glenn Murphy said: ‘The Policy provides clarity to our port companies in terms of their future direction, but importantly for the thousands of Irish and International companies that depend everyday on effective and efficient ports to connect their business with the global economy’.

Minister Varadkar added: ‘Too many governments have taken a one-size-fits-all approach to our ports sector. We want to end this laissez-faire approach, and encourage shareholders to take a much more hands-on attitude to maritime ports. This new National Ports Policy represents an important change in approach towards the Government’s management of these important assets and provides an overarching vision for the future development of the sector’.

Detailed information from Minister's Dept:

The core objective of national ports policy is to facilitate a competitive and effective market for maritime transport services. The Policy categorises the ports sector into –

· Ports of National Significance (Tier 1): Dublin Port Company, the Port of Cork Company and Shannon Foynes Port Company, each of which accounts for more than 15% of national trade;

· Ports of National Significance (Tier 2): The Port of Waterford Company and Rosslare Europort; either of which accounts for between 2% and 15% of national trade;

· Ports of Regional Significance for development principally in regional freight, leisure, aquaculture facilities, urban regeneration or cultural and recreation amenities.

The Government expects the Ports of National Significance (Tier 1) to lead the response of the State commercial ports sector to any future national port capacity requirements. There is also a role in this regard for the two Ports of National Significance (Tier 2) to develop additional capacity to aid competitive conditions within the unitised sectors (Lift On/Lift Off and Roll On/Roll Off) in particular. These five ports collectively handle approximately 92% of all tonnage handled at Irish ports in any given year.

The importance of the five other State commercial port companies is recognised by their designation as Ports of Regional Significance. These ports: Galway, Drogheda, New Ross, Wicklow and Dún Laoghaire – retain important regional roles as regional freight distribution hubs, but also increasingly important roles in areas such as marine leisure and tourism.

The policy envisages the Government as a more 'active shareholder' in those State commercial port companies designated as Ports of National Significance. This will be facilitated through:

· A realignment of central Government shareholding in those Ports of National Significance and a transfer of control of the smaller Ports of Regional Significance to local authority control;

· A requirement that relevant Ports of National Significance submit clearly stated dividend policies to the Department by the end of Q2 2013;

· The integration of existing Irish Maritime Development Office financial analysis with emerging operational benchmarking systems at a European level to allow for the development of a port performance management system by 2016;

· The introduction of on-going origin and destination surveys by 2016 to independently establish freight flows to/from the ports;

· Commissioning independent capacity forecasting analyses at regular intervals from 2018 onwards;

· Changes to the Ministerial / board level relationship to ensure that Government policy is embedded within all levels of corporate and commercial development.

This more active approach toward the management of our key international maritime gateways represents a sea change in attitude and will allow Government to benchmark the performance of our ports and the return on our investment. The future development of the Ports of Regional Significance is best placed within the framework of their regional and local communities and it is therefore proposed to allow for their transfer to relevant local authority ownership.

The National Ports Policy commits to working with the ports sector and the relevant Departments (Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Environment, Community and Local Government) to ensure that port development and environmental protection are mutually respected.

The National Ports Policy document is available to download below.

Speech by Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar at the launch of the National Ports Policy

I am delighted to launch today a new National Ports Policy which described the Government's vision for our commercial ports sector.

Our ports are important to our economic recovery and our future economic prosperity. However, their contribution to our economy is frequently overlooked.

The Competition Authority recently estimated that approximately 84% by volume and 62% by value of all goods moved into or out of the State comes through our ports. We rely on our ports to provide us with imported oil and coal, vehicles and many consumer goods.

Many of our major export sectors, for example pharmaceuticals, chemicals and agri-food, are heavily reliant on our commercial ports. Also, ports can be important for tourism both in terms of passenger ferries, car ferries and cruise ships.

As an island nation we depend on our ports to an even greater degree than many of our trading partners. Hence the need to get the policy right.

But ports are much more than trading gateways to the world. They often have deep-rooted links into their community, are steeped in history and are centres for leisure and amenity. They are also frequently located in or beside areas of great natural beauty and importance for wildlife.

There is also a great diversity among the 14 ports that handle commercial freight each year – in terms of the size and scale of their business, the sort of ships and goods handled and the type of financial and organisational resources available to ports and governance.

Policy to date has not recognised this diversity in the role and function of our ports.

I am determined that the importance of all our ports is recognised at the highest levels of Government policy, but am also aware that the current policy is no longer appropriate.

This new policy is different in a number of ways:

· We will move from a 'one size fits all' policy to one that recognises that different ports have different roles to play, now and in the future

· Instead of adopting a 'laissez faire' approach, the government will become a more active or activist shareholder

· Future investment in deepwater capacity, when needed, will not occur until is has been subject of proven analysis led by the Department

· Local authorities will be given a greater role as shareholders in smaller ports

· Private investment in the ports will be encouraged

· The commercial mandate of ports will remain. They will be expected to turn a profit, pay a dividend and will not receive exchequer grants

Core Objective

The core objective of National Ports Policy is to facilitate a competitive and effective market for maritime transport services. In my view there are a number of different aspects to achieving this objective.

Firstly, we must be clear about which Ports are of National Significance. As detailed in the new Policy, the Government recognises Dublin Port Company, the Port of Cork Company and Shannon Foynes Port Company as our Ports of National Significance (Tier 1).

Additionally the Government also recognises the Port of Waterford Company and Rosslare Europort to be Ports of National Significance (Tier 2). National Ports Policy must be focussed on those ports which fulfil a national function.

Secondly, in relation to those ports which serve a regional or local function, we must provide an appropriate governance framework that allows for their continued future development in a manner that best suits their individual circumstances. It is also recognised that while none of these ports account for more than 8% of national trade, they can have national significance in a niche service or product area.

This new category of ports includes the five smaller State port companies in Drogheda, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow. These Ports of Regional Significance will be placed within a local authority led governance structure with local authorities taking shareholdings in the ports. This will require legislation, further consultation and time.

As regards Government's role as shareholder, I am firmly of the view that Government must be a more active and demanding shareholder. By that I do not mean an 'interfering' shareholder, but a shareholder that clearly outlines its vision and demands of the sector as a whole, as well as its expectation for individual ports. This will include a re-emphasis on the ports' commercial remit with a requirement that to adhere to a dividend policy and invest and develop on a sound commercial basis.

While no ports are earmarked for privatisation, private sector investment and involvement will be encouraged.

Finally, our ports enjoy a unique location and are frequently sited in - or beside - designated special protection areas for birds and habitats. This has obvious consequences in terms of the complexities involved in ensuring the appropriate balance between economic development and environmental protection. These complexities can be best resolved through early and meaningful engagement between all stakeholders in understanding the differing roles and responsibilities in these important areas.

This new National Ports Policy seeks to address each of these aspects in turn and will provide the entire sector with an appropriate policy framework to allow all our ports to develop in a sustainable manner and ensure that the State is served by the type of port infrastructure and services it requires.

Published in Ports & Shipping
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#ports – A lecture on Green Ports and Harbours by Patrick McCabe will be held this Thursday (March 28th, 6.30pm) at the James Joyce centre, North Great George's Street, Dublin 1.

This lecture explores the changing role of ports and harbours in Ireland and Europe as catalysts for new development in towns and cities.  It explores their potential, not just as areas of trade, but their emerging role as knowledge hubs, cultural quarters, recreational landscapes, sustainable energy hubs, and even instigators of agricultural growth.

The lecture draws on the recent work of REDscape in Ireland and the Netherlands.

An ongoing research project by REDscape Landscape & Urbanism, comparing the development of harbours in Asia and Europe led to the creation of a number of spatial initiatives to demonstrate the application of their work, including a vision for the Port of Dublin, "Green Port Dublin"  Also discussed are new development strategies, including the public realm plan, led by REDscape for the harbour quarter in Deventer; a self build, bottom up development in an existing industrial area in the Netherlands, recently published in the Dutch yearbook for Landscape Architecture and Urban Design.

All are welcome. Admission is free to ILI members, non-members €5

Published in Ports & Shipping
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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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