Improved berthing facilities at Dunmore East and greater investment in the region’s port infrastructure are vital because cruise liners find it too risky to launch passenger tenders offshore in rough weather, said a Waterford councillor.
Eddie Mulligan, Fianna Fáil, said: “Three liners opted for alternative destinations this summer and another terminated a visit last weekend, costing the local economy about €275,000.”
Up to 20 liners visit Waterford annually, varying from small and medium crafts to large ships carrying 1,700 passengers and crew. The larger liners drop anchor off Dunmore East, with passengers ferried ashore on tenders.
Medium craft usually access Waterford Port at Belview, while smaller vessels berth near the city centre 4km upriver. Cllr Mulligan believes all three options are under-served.
Marine Minister Simon Coveney recently released €500,000 towards developing a harbour office and 60ft pontoon at Dunmore East to facilitate tenders.
He also sanctioned €112,500 for dredging work at Cheekpoint, in Waterford harbour, while dredging at Dunmore East is presently under way. Cllr Mulligan says the allocations are insufficient. “The city centre berth is in a neglected area of the port. And a 60ft pontoon at Dunmore East — which has long been neglected — won’t do much for cruise liners, since the offshore swell is the real problem.
“Furthermore cruise operators are moving away from tendering in favour of docking alongside. We need to go with the market,” he said.
The Waterford City East councillor wants to see “a second pier parallel to the present one at Dunmore east for large cruise liners to berth alongside. In winter it could facilitate large draft fishing vessels like the Scottish boats fishing the Celtic Sea and south of England.”
More broadly, Cllr Mulligan would like a ‘blue way’ developed through harbour dredging and upgrading, which would also enhance leisure craft activity.
“It has enormous economic and employment potential,” he insists, “but while Dublin gets €125m and Cork €100m to develop their cruise markets, we get very little. That, after we did the first ground work on cruise liner tourism in 1989.”
Chairman of Waterford Business Group and founder of business advisory service Bizboost, Michael Garland echoes the councillor’s views. “The money should come from Regional Development Funds,” he says.
“Give us €100m and we’ll do it ourselves and the entire South-East will benefit.”
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