A decision by Dublin Port to curtail the use of its facilities by cruise ships and to axe turnarounds for liners in future years because of Brexit has been deemed a “massive blow” to tourism nationwide.
Dublin Port has told shipping agents in recent days that there will be reduced berth spaces and that turnaround days for cruise ships will be stopped because of Brexit preparations.
An email obtained by the Irish Examiner from Dublin Port CEO Eamonn O’Reilly to shipping agents says that berth availability in 2021 will be “significantly less” than in 2019 and 2020, while there will be “no major turn-arounds” in Dublin Port in 2021.
Cruise line agencies say the €50m industry here will be damaged and the Government must intervene before booking agencies move cruise trips from here to other EU countries.
Niamh McCarthy, managing director with Excursions Ireland and a founder of Cruise Ireland, said: “If Dublin reduces access for ships, they will chose different destinations. This will have a catastrophic effect on cruise tourism for Dublin and Ireland. They won’t be there to go to Belfast or Cork either.
“It is unsettling, the lack of information coming from Dublin Port. Cruise liners have spent huge money and time investing here. But there have been no emails or calls and people are asking questions.
The Government recently announced land around Dublin Port would be used for customs checks because of Brexit.
Mr O’Reilly confirmed to the Irish Examiner this would have a direct impact on space for ships and cruises coming into Dublin.
He said: “As regards Brexit, any reduction in our capacity for cruise ships is not directly as a result of Brexit pressures.
“However, we are allocating 7.8 hectares of port lands for border posts and inspection facilities and the loss of this quantum of land from an estate of 260 hectares is significant.
"This loss of land is a contributing factor in our decision not to handle cruise turnarounds in 2021.”
He also confirmed that turnaround days, where huge passenger numbers disembark from ships and another set embarks, would be axed.
“While we have not as yet finalised the capacity that will be available for cruise ships in 2021, we have decided that we will not be handling large turnarounds in 2021 and beyond,” said Mr O’Reilly also said the port was “currently looking at what berth capacity” will be there for cruise ships in 2021 and beyond and will finalise plans in the coming weeks.
The developments are also worrying suppliers for cruise liners.
Feargal Barton of Barton’s Transport said: “It will be a massive blow for tourism if this goes ahead. On turn-around ships alone, people fly into Dublin from all over the world, use hotel bed nights, restaurants, transport, all of which will be revenue lost to the economy.
“Less berths means less ships. The Minister for Tourism needs to fight our corner. Dublin port is very vague with its plans and cruise line companies are getting frustrated.”
Some 150 cruise ships come into Dublin Port annually with 200,000 visitors.