The massive development of a new container handling port at Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork, is almost complete and, when operational, will future-proof the transit of imports and exports for Ireland.
Work on the €86m project - the biggest single investment ever made by the Port of Cork - started in 2018. It has been a huge undertaking, involving the dredging of 285,000 tonnes of silt and rock, the laying of 92,000 sq m of concrete and the development of 2kms of new roads at the 150-acre site.
A lot of the silt was buried at sea, close to Roche's Point, under an EPA licence, while most of the rock was ground up and used for infill at the site.
Tim Murphy, project and development engineer with the Port of Cork, explained that the new 360m-long quay had a 13m depth of water, meaning it is capable of handling the biggest container ships in the world.
“They are typically 300m long and 16 containers wide. The containers are 40ft long each and the Ringaskiddy terminal will be able to handle 280,000 of these containers every year,” Mr Murphy said.
This is approximately 40,000 more containers than can be handled at Tivoli, where operations will start to be phased out once Ringaskiddy is fully up and running.
“The Ringaskiddy development will meet regional and national infrastructure requirements for external connectivity,” Mr Murphy said.
The Port of Cork plans to then sell off its sites in Tivoli and the Cork city quays for redevelopment, which is in line with the government's Ireland 2040 plan for economic growth in Cork.
Tivoli is already at capacity and because the depth of water there is less than Ringaskiddy, it would be unable to handle the larger container ships being built these days. That's why the Port of Cork took the decision some years ago to develop Ringaskiddy.
In the meantime, the Port of Cork commissioned the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI) to come up with a blueprint for the development of Tivoli docklands.
The RIAI said the docklands could be redeveloped with 4,000 housing units, shopping centres, offices, and a railway station.
To redevelop the site, some infrastructural improvements will be needed before housing and office blocks can be built there. A new access road will be needed from the eastern side, while access from the western side will have to be significantly improved.
As the railway runs through the northern side of Tivoli docks, the creation of a station will not cost a huge amount of money and it will be ideal to ferry commuters who live there to work elsewhere. It will also provide an easy link for people living in the city employed in new offices on the site.
The Port of Cork acquired loans and grants for the Ringaskiddy project from the European Investment Bank, the Irish Strategic Investment Fund and AIB and European Union Connecting Europe Facility Fund.
Two massive cranes, built by Liebherr Container Cranes Ltd in Killarney, have been installed at the quayside. They have a 45m reach and a 54 tonne lifting capacity, Mr Murphy said.
When the facility opens for business it will operate a new state-of-the-art booking system for hauliers, to make container movement in and out of the terminal as efficient and speedy as possible.
This booking system, which will be the first to be used by any Irish port, has already been trialed in Tivoli. It will allow hauliers to book a time slot for delivery and collection. This will stop queuing and reduce HGV traffic at peak times.
The booking system was proposed by the Port of Cork at an oral hearing with An Bord Pleanála on the project. An Bord Pleanála subsequently made it one of their conditions when it granted planning permission for the project.
This was done to reduce HGV traffic at peak times on the current main road from Cork into Ringaskiddy (N28) until it is replaced with a section of motorway (M28), which is not expected to be completed until 2027.
Meanwhile, the Port of Cork set up a Community Gain Fund as part of the project. It contributed €1m to the local community as well as the newly opened €2.2m public marine leisure amenity at Paddy’s Point, Ringaskiddy.