Plan for Shannon estuary to handle largest ships
A 30-year plan launched by Ireland’s largest bulk port company will see the Shannon estuary capable of attracting some of the largest container ships in the world after the enlargement of the Panama Canal.
Shannon Foynes Port Company expects that up to 2,000 jobs could be created through direct foreign investment in the life time of the Vision 2041 project if the unique assets of the Shannon estuary are successfully marketed.
The Shannon estuary is the deepest waterway in Ireland and one of the deepest in Europe. Its natural depth gives it a distinct advantage over other ports in Ireland to be able to handle the huge container ships being developed with the expansion of the Panama Canal.
At the launch of the master plan at Foynes Flying Boat Maritime Museum yesterday, Michael Collins, chairman of the port company, said the estuary had not realised its full potential over the last four decades “in terms of catering for deep water and being able to bring in the largest ships in the world”.
Asked if he felt let down by State agencies in the region and successive government over recent decades, Mr Collins said he “did not want to dwell on that too much”.
“Nothing much has happened in the greater Shannon estuary in the last 40 years . . . Inward investment into the Shannon region has been neglected. The line has been blurred between who should lead on getting indirect inward investment into the Shannon estuary.”
Mr Collins said there was tremendous opportunities with China developing its trade ties with Europe and the changing energy scene with the US.
The first major project to get under way will be the infilling of the East Jett, which is expected to get under way in 2015 and which will cost €12 million.
The company will also seek the zoning of an extra 89 hectares of development land at Foynes for port facilities, including an additional 9,290sq m of new warehousing, to facilitate the anticipated 3 per cent to 8 per cent annual tonnage growth over the 30-year plan.
The master plan also anticipates the number of people employed in port activities increasing by 25 per cent over the period of Vision 2041.
The plan was launched by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar and is the first of its kind set out by the company, which has statutory jurisdiction over all commercial maritime activities on the Shannon estuary, stretching from Kerry Head/ Loop Head to Limerick city.
“I commend the port for drafting such a realistic, achievable and ambitious plan,” Mr Varadkar said.
“Shannon Foynes is an important asset for the southwest of Ireland, and for our national economy, and I welcome its goal to attract significant international investment.”
The master plan also sets out ambitious plans for the port authority’s second largest port, Limerick Docks.