23rd May

'Radical overhaul' of National Port Policy

Government is to have a more 'hands-on role' in the maritime ports sector under a new National Ports Policy outlined by the Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, Leo Varadkar.

Shareholders will be encouraged to take an 'activist approach' to managing their ports 'to ensure the State gets best value...whether that shareholder is the government or the local authority', according to the department.

Dun-Laoghaire - Port of National Significance under new National Ports Policy - will be placed within a local authority-led governance structure with local authorities taking a shareholding. Photo Gillian Mills

Dun-Laoghaire - Port of National Significance under new National Ports Policy - will be placed within a local authority-led governance structure with local authorities taking a shareholding. Photo Gillian Mills

It adds that previous policies 'have not recognised the huge diversity among the 19 ports that handle commercial freight.' The core objective is to facilitate a 'competitive and effective market for maritime transport services'. 

"This new ports policy encourAges each port...to develop its full potential to ensure that each one can contribute to further growth in the ports sector," Minister Varadkar said.

"Government must be a more active and demanding shareholder. By that I mean a shareholder that clearly outlines its vision and demands of the sector as whole, as well as it expectation for individual ports."

Focus will centre on a re-emphasis on ports' commercial remit with a requirement to adhere to a dividend policy and in investment and development.

"While no ports are earmarked for privitasion, private sector investment and involvement will be encouraged," he said.

MAIN POINTS:

• government to 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 differing roles for each port The  policy iwill determine which are of 'national significance' and have a national function, and those of 'regional significance' with specialist significance at national level:

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

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

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 five ports will be placed within a local authority-led governance structure with local authorities taking shareholdings in the ports. They will retain roles as regional freight distribution hubs and areas for marine leisure and  tourism. 

• Future investment in deepwater capacity, when needed, will not occur until it has been subject 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. 

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