23rd October

Do new harbour charges threaten growth in marine leisure sector?

 David Branigan

The statutory instrument enabling the Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates & Charges) Order 2012 has still to be signed into law by Simon Coveney, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Marine.


Dingle Harbour is one of the five Fishery Harbour Centres that will be impacted by the increases. Photo Gillian Mills/ Inshore Ireland 

A wide range of charges were provided for under the Order, and the inclusion of fees for marine leisure activities attracted a strong response from the Irish Marine Federation which is concerned that development of the sector might be adversely affected. 


The fees only affect a small number of the State controlled ports that have facilities for leisure boats; other marinas around the coast are operated under private or county council management.

The IMF submission highlights a number of concerns including the apparent dichotomy between developing marine leisure tourism and the charges that are significantly higher than previous charges enacted in 2003.

Waste disposal charges are included in the draft Order but these are already in wide use around the coast; however, charges for water consumption threaten to add considerably to annual costs for boat owners.

Nor are cost increases limited to permanent berth-holders.  The IMF estimates that overnight stays could treble to around €75 per night under the new regime, effectively forcing leisure users to look elsewhere.

According to the submission that is understood to be under active consideration by the department, should the proposed Order come into force, leisure traffic would be effectively excluded from fishery ports entirely.

Concerns that the proposed charges will act as a base for other marina operators to follow appear to be baseless – at least in the current economic climate.

There is spare capacity at marinas around the coast from Cork to Dublin with prime locations still commanding premium rates that are close to double for more rural facilities.

Yet even the higher prices are still below average compared to many of the neighbouring UK marinas, and plans are underway to attract British boat-owners to base themselves in Ireland and to commute to their boats here.

Allowing the market to dictate prices for berths and services is the preferred pricing policy in Ireland; competition is strong between the various operators seeking precious business in the tough business environment at present.

But maintaining a chain of marina options around the coast has been a critical component of developing the sector for more than ten years, and excluding State operated facilities because of higher charges runs contrary to stated tourism policy in many regions, notably Cork.

Where responsibility for marine leisure tourism actually lies, whether between the Department of Transport, Sport & Tourism or the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine should hopefully be clearer following publication of the government’s comprehensive Marine Strategic Plan later this summer. 

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