Cork County on the Rise: Trade and traffic part of the rising tide in Cork Harbour

Capable of handling some of the largest liners in Cobh, the Port of Cork welcomed over 243,000 passengers and crew in 2019, writes Brendan Keating

Cork County on the Rise: Trade and traffic part of the rising tide in Cork Harbour

Capable of handling some of the largest liners in Cobh, the Port of Cork welcomed over 243,000 passengers and crew in 2019, writes Brendan Keating

LAST year, traffic through the Port of Cork set new records. The number of cruise ships visiting almost doubled and a €86m investment in a new container terminal commenced.

It’s little wonder the Port of Cork is looking to the future with optimism.

Throughput at both the Port of Cork and Bantry Bay Port Company reached 10.7 million tonnes in 2018, an increase of 3% on the traffic recorded in 2017.

Total imports increased by 8% while exports increased by 5%. That is a record-breaking figure. Strong growth was also seen in container traffic with volumes through both Tivoli and Ringaskiddy Container Terminals up by 6% compared to 2017 figures, with a total of 229,762 TEU’s (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) handled.

Dry bulk cargo primarily agri products (animal feed, cereals and fertilizers) increased by 39% to 1.9 million tonnes due to the fodder crisis.

Cork Harbour is home to Ireland’s only oil refinery in Whitegate now owned by Iriving Oil and Bantry Harbour is home to the Whiddy Oil Storage facility owned by Zenith Energy.

A new RoPax ferry service from Cork to Santander operated by Brittany Ferries has reported a steady increase in the number of freight units using the route, with hauliers choosing this route to avoid the UK land bridge option.

Another area of growth is the cruise business with 95 cruise ships and over 157,000 passengers visiting last year. However, we are very proud that in 2019 cruise visits have smashed that record with 100 cruises calling.

Looking forward, the port has a lot to be excited about. In June last year, we commenced construction on a €86 million investment in a new container terminal In Ringaskiddy. The limitations at the existing Lo-Lo facility in Tivoli (water depth, width for vessel swinging and landside terminal capacity) requires the relocation of the container business downstream to the lower harbour at Ringaskiddy.

This new project Cork Container Terminal will drive further growth and help secure Cork as an international gateway for trade and is a Strategic Trans – European Transport Network (TEN-T) project.

It also involves a historic change in the port as not only will all container operations move down river to Ringaskiddy in the lower harbour, but the historic headquarters in Custom House Quay will also relocate to Ringaskiddy.

This move will have a hugely positive change on the City Quays and Tivoli Docks, further opening up the City Dockland area to redevelopment.

The first phase of the Cork Container Terminal is expected to open in 2020 and is progressing well. When complete it will provide 360m of quay space and two ship-to-shore cranes, which will allow multiple vessels up to panamax to be serviced.

Cork Container Terminal will have both landside and marine capacity to further build on the growing Lo-Lo market share. Port of Cork currently services a diverse range of primarily western European ports (e.g. Antwerp, Liverpool, Rotterdam, Bremerhaven, Southampton) with shortsea carriers, Eucon, BG Freight, X-Press, and Samskip.

There are also weekly scheduled stopovers from Central America and Africa/Mediterranean for Maersk, and Grimaldi.

In addition to Cork Container Terminal; and part of our planning stipulations, the Port of Cork has completed a new public marine leisure amenity at Paddy’s Point and has committed a €1 million community gain fund for the Ringaskiddy area for the development of an enhanced public realm scheme to support the local community.

The port’s cruise business has seen extensive growth in the last 10 years and without doubt 2019 has been a record year for the Port of Cork with 100 cruise calls to the Port.

Capable of handling some of the largest liners, carrying high volumes of passengers at our dedicated cruise berth in Cobh, we welcomed over 243,000 passengers and crew to Cork in 2019.

In 2019, over 30 million people globally are expected to take a cruise. With the global cruise ship order book for new build contracts reaching 113 ships between now and 2027, Cork cruise business is set to grow further in the coming years and we are eager to attract these new ships.

Cork’s profile has been raised significantly in recent years, due to a series of glowing reports in some of the world’s leading cruise travel journals. Surveys report a high degree of satisfaction among visitors with the regions natural amenities proving especially popular.

Joined up thinking and collaboration of local authorities and tourism representatives working to promote the area has also greatly benefited the region.

It is not as difficult to sell Cork as it was ten years ago and there is a much wider recognition of the Cork brand globally especially since the launch of the ‘We Are Cork’ and ‘Pure Cork’ brands.

As tourism grows, ports, cities and regions are recognising the need to offer a variety of excursions, thus increasing the overall experience for the visitor. Improving and exciting the passenger experience will encourage a return visit to the region increasing tourism and boosting the local economy.

On average, cruise ship passengers spend €81 during their time in Cork; with 42% of this money being spent on shopping, 32% on excursion travel and 17% on food and drink. Typically crew spend approximately €29, with most of the money being spent on food and drink and/or shopping.

In 2019, Cobh was recognized as one of the best cruise destinations in the world, winning in the Top-Rated British Isles & Western Europe Cruise Destination category. Destinations awarded in this year’s awards received the highest ratings among cruisers who cruised to the destination in the past year and shared their experiences on Cruise Critic.

The smaller cruise liner market or ‘expedition’ market has huge growth potential and it is this market that Bantry hopes to capitalise on over the next few years, with the guidance of the Port of Cork.

Brendan Keating is chief executive of the Port of Cork.

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