Moving Dublin Port from its current location would cost more than €8 billion and is unlikely to get planning permission, the Dublin Port Company (DPC) has said.
The existing port facility in the capital’s docklands is likely to reach maximum capacity some time between 2030 and 2040.
"This means additional port capacity will be needed elsewhere on the east coast of Ireland to cater for the growth which Dublin Port will not be able to accommodate once this point has been reached," the company said.
As part of a consultation process, the DPC has published a series of dialogue papers setting out various options for delivering additional capacity and on the future of the port itself.
One of them deals with the idea of moving the port to a different location, possibly to a greenfield site at Bremore, near Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
Proponents say this would reduce congestion in the city while unlocking a significant parcel of land for housing and commercial development in the docklands area.
The DPC, however, poured cold water on the possibility of relocating, saying it would cost up to €8.3 billion and was unlikely to get the green light from planning authorities “because of environmental impacts”.
The company's preferred option involves building a new port either at Bremore or at a site in Arklow, Co Wicklow, which would operate alongside the existing Dublin facility, expanding its capacity. This option was costed at €3.9-€4.2 billion.
The project could be realised, however, only with significant State support, it said, noting none of the port companies (including DPC) were capable of raising the project finance that would be required. Drogheda Port Authority recently announced a separate plan to develop Bremore as a deep water port.
‘Wide spectrum of views needed’
DPC is already undertaking three major infrastructural projects as part of its Project 2040 plan, which will double the existing port’s capacity to 77 million tonnes a year.
Additional capacity at other existing east coast ports – Drogheda, Rosslare, Waterford – would also be required, the company said, so as Dublin Port approached its ultimate capacity, volumes it could not handle could be accommodated elsewhere.
“We need to plan for how, when and where additional port capacity might be provided on the east coast of Ireland by 2040,” DPC chief executive Eamonn O’Reilly said.
“We know from experience that 20 years is a relatively short period in the context of delivering large-scale infrastructure projects, let alone a once-in-200-years mega project, which the construction of a new additional greenfield port would be,” he said.
“Consideration of any plan of this scale must take account of as wide a spectrum of viewpoints as possible,” he said, noting the consultation was designed to facilitate this.
Mr O’Reilly said Dublin Port had already lost about 14.6 hectares of land – 6 per cent of the port’s land area – to Brexit border and customs posts.
Cargo from Britain to Dublin Port has almost halved since Brexit and as a result of the pandemic. Some of this has been linked to backlogs of goods waiting in UK warehouses for customs clearance.
Mr O’Reilly said Brexit posed a risk to the company’s forecast that it would reach full capacity in the next 20 years.
DPC said the purpose of its post-2040 dialogue papers was to facilitate informed discussion and substantive engagement on three key questions, namely: “What level of port capacity will have to be provided to meet future demand on the east coast of Ireland over the next 20 years? Where will this additional capacity be provided? How will the projects needed to deliver this additional capacity be financed?”