Focus on marine projects in budget welcomed

Maritime sector: Specifics will be in place for next year’s budget, says Coveney

The Government’s prioritisation of the “blue economy” in the budget has been welcomed by those working on marine research and ocean energy projects.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the agri-taxation review had had such a “positive outcome” he was proposing a similar exercise for the marine sector.

Mr Noonan’s promise of “financial and taxation supports” for the sector has been interpreted as a commitment to the Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth strategy spearheaded by Minister for Marine Simon Coveney.

The strategy, published in July 2012, aims to ensure the maritime sector exceeds €6.4 billion turnover annually by 2020, and doubles its contribution to gross domestic product to 2.4 per cent by 2030.


Specifics are expected to be ready by next year's budget, according to Mr Coveney, who told The Irish Times (italics) a new group would be set up to devise measures for shipping and ports, renewable energy, fishing and aquaculture and marine tourism.

This group will draw on the work of two task forces currently liaising with the Government’s marine co-ordination group, chaired by Mr Coveney.

“It is quite exciting as I have been beating the marine drum for a long time, but this is now the Government playing to that same beat,” he said.

Current spending in marine is also up, he noted, with €11.5 million devoted to the new seafood development programme 2015 and a further €11.5 million of capital funding invested in fishery harbour capital works.

Some €6.3 million has been allocated to investments in aquaculture and fish processing projects, and close to €47 million to fund Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Marine Institute and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, he noted.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan said Mr Noonan's commitment was welcome and encouraging, and would boost the development task force which has been working on initiatives to implement the Coveney plan.

Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC) chairman Peter Coyle also welcomed the move, describing it as a measured approach towards the Coveney plan, and a clear expression of support for the energy and maritime innovation hub which IMERC has been developing in Cork.

Some 11 companies are currently committed to the IMERC hub, which is hosting an innovation workshop in Cork this week.

Taxation supports may also apply to an international shipping services project, for which planning permission is being sought in Dublin city’s docklands.

Offshore petroleum exploration and production is not included in the proposed new "blue economy" measures, as a recently revised taxation regime is in place for this sector, Mr Noonan said.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times