Foynes Port tells Minister of initiatives to boost exports

Mon, Apr 25, 2011, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Transport Leo Varadkar has been given details of a range of initiatives by Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC) aimed at streamlining Ireland’s export infrastructure.

The country’s second-largest port company said the initiatives would help enhance job creation in the sector while sending out a message “Ireland is open for business”.

Speaking after a briefing at the company’s headquarters in Foynes, chief executive Pat Keating described its first engagement with the newly appointed Minister as “very positive”.

“Being Ireland’s second-largest port company and the nation’s largest bulk port company, Shannon Foynes Port Company will, together with other Irish ports, play an extremely important role in what is going to be an export-led economic recovery,” said Mr Keating.

“This is illustrated by the Department of Transport’s own ports policy review document, which states that 99 per cent of all trade passes through Irish seaports. Unfortunately, there are issues and challenges out there affecting both ports and their stakeholders and regrettably opportunities are being lost as a result.”

One such issue, discussed with the Minister, is the inordinate delay associated with securing permission for foreshore developments. “The difficulty for any foreshore applications is that you have to get planning permission first from your local authority and then you need a separate foreshore licence from the Department of the Environment,” said Mr Keating. “Here it could take three years or more to get through both processes, but in the UK they have it down to just six months.”

Port company chairwoman Kay McGuinness said the Minister was urged to consider a “one-stop” shop for foreshore planning as excess bureaucracy here was sending investment abroad. “We know from a conference we were involved in on maximising the future of the Shannon estuary that the consensus emerging from business was that ‘Ireland is closed for maintenance but the UK is open for business’. Unfortunately for us, the UK is reaping rewards as a result and at our expense,” Ms McGuinness said.

“We need a simple one-stop shop for planning here so that we can reduce unacceptable delays and send out a message that we are pro-business as the contrary is currently the perception from the investors in key projects,” she said.

“We have seen instances where planning for developments has taken up to three years, whereas the equivalent in the UK is six months. In our economy today, with planned investment in short supply, there’s no reason whatsoever why we cannot expedite planning. The authorities certainly aren’t overloaded and the Minister appeared to be cognisant of this.”

Mr Varadkar was also urged to support efforts around prioritising road access infrastructure improvements for Foynes Port.

These projects include the upgrading of the N69 road from Limerick to Tralee – which passes through Tarbert, Foynes and Listowel – and the link road to the N21 main Limerick-Tralee road.