Major ports like Dublin and Cork have been told they must open up to more outside investment, but Transport Minister Leo Varadkar insisted they would not be fully privatised.
Unveiling a strategy for development of the country’s 19 commercial ports, Mr Varadkar warned that all needed to start turning a profit.
The ports are to be divided into categories, with Dublin, Cork, and Shannon-Foynes on the priority A-list as the Government takes a more “activist” role in how they operate.
“We want more private sector involvement in ports, but that does not mean privatisation — we are not going to privatise the ports.
“It is already the case in some ports that there are terminals that are privately owned. In Dublin port, the land is entirely in public ownership, but the operations are largely privatised. There are other ports around the country where we could have more private sector involvement, in Cork, in Shannon-Foynes, and in lots of other places.
“They are state assets, there are ways to deliver value from state assets; one way is to sell them, another way is to get a return in terms of dividend and that is why, as part of this policy, all the ports will be expected be become more commercial, become profitable if they are not already, and pay dividends.
“Two years ago Dublin port was the only one paying a dividend — Cork and Galway now do and Shannon-Foynes is committed to from next year.”
Under the shake-up, some regional ports will be transferred to local authorities, but the minister said the future of Bantry Bay was still under consideration.
“We are keeping all 19 ports going because all ports have a role to play. The top five handle 92% of trade... The old policy was to treat all ports as if they were the same, but.. we have decided to categorise the ports, so that ports have different roles, but those roles are equally important.”
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