Ports set for a ‘radical overhaul’

The Government has hinted at “a radical overhaul” of the ports network in the aftermath of further declines in freight business.

Freight volumes shipped through Irish ports fell in the first three months of the year, with numbers not expected to pick up until the second half of 2012.

The Irish Maritime Development Office data shows only one of the five principal freight segments — tanker/liquid bulk — experienced year-on-year growth, with a 30% rise being measured.

However, lift-on/lift-off trades; roll-on/roll-off; and break bulk volumes were all down by single-digit percentages. Dry bulk volumes were unchanged on the same period last year.

The office said it expects to see further stagnation in its second-quarter data and no real pick-up until either the third or fourth quarter of the year.

The figures were released yesterday and coincided with Dublin hosting the European Short-Sea Convention. At the conference, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the ports policy “will require a radical overhaul”.

He said: “The existing structure treats our nine port companies as though they were the same size, scale, and have the same role to play, while this is clearly not the case.”

He said the new policy will have to provide “an appropriate framework” for commercial ports. The review — aimed at recognising that “changes at a global level require action at a national level, to ensure that Ireland is served by first-class commercial seaports” — will be published in the coming months.


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