Brexit: Role advanced for Shannon Foynes port

Additional capacity could ease congestion in Dublin Port, says chief executive

Shannon Foynes port could take any post-Brexit strain off Irish east coast ports should Border checks lead to congestion, its chief executive has said.

Pat Keating, chief executive of Shannon Foynes Port Company, said the country's largest bulk port for non-container freight could take further capacity on completion of a general cargo terminal.

The State-owned company is investing more than €20 million converting 83 acres on the eastern side of the port for marine-related industry as part of a €64 million development plan.

As part of the expansion, the company plans to next year commence lift-on/lift-off operations of container freight that would allow it to take traffic from Dublin Port should Brexit congest freight traffic moving across the Irish Sea to UK ports.


Reliable alternative

“Shannon Foynes Port Company could offer freight a very reliable alternative by enabling it to avail of a significantly less congested road network to Foynes instead of the enduring congestion of the greater Dublin area,” Mr Keating said.

The Foynes to Limerick road improvement scheme is earmarked for funding as part of the Government's Project Ireland 2040 development plan, and would link it to the country's motorway network, further improving access to the port.

“This road will be a game-changer for Foynes as it will give unfettered access direct from the national motorway network, significantly enhancing the port’s attractiveness as an exports and imports hub,” said Mr Keating.

As part of contingency planning to cope with a no-deal Brexit, consideration is being given to how other ports could relieve traffic from Dublin Port, the country’s busiest sea port and the most direct way of accessing EU markets through the UK landbridge, should Border inspections and customs checks cause congestion.

In 2019, Shannon Foynes Port Company will begin pre-planning for a deep-water berth on Foynes Island that will be the deepest water multi-user terminal for general cargo in Ireland.

Heavily congested

The port estimates that more than 80 per cent of Ireland’s economic output is located within a two-hour drive of Foynes, offering more parts of the country a viable alternative to Dublin.

“Even without Brexit, the greater Dublin area is heavily congested and there are no signs of that improving,” Mr Keating said.

Ship sailing times would be only marginally longer to Foynes, he said, but this would be “more than offset in road transport savings, particularly for freight originating outside the greater Dublin area,” he said.

The decision by Irish Ferries to cancel its direct Rosslare to France sailings next year, and to route the new WB Yeats ferry out of Dublin, has been criticised by road hauliers because of how it could congest Dublin traffic if the UK crashes out of the EU and there are severe delays in Border and customs checks.

Shannon Foynes' location on one of the deepest waterways in Europe enables it to accommodate the world's largest ships and to act as a gateway between Europe and North America, the port company says.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times