Plans for the €200 million expansion of Dublin Port, the largest engineering project undertaken in the port in 200 years, have been lodged with An Bord Pleanála.
The Alexandra Basin redevelopment project would allow cruise ships to be brought up the Liffey as far as the East-Link bridge and give the port the capacity to accommodate the largest freight vessels in use.
If Dublin Port Company secured planning permission for the project, it would hand over the 10.5 hectares it owns on Bull Island to Dublin City Council.
The project would provide new and deeper berths in the Alexandra Basin beside the East-Link bridge and on the river Liffey towards the east of Dublin Port. More than 40 per cent of berths would be redeveloped and a 10km channel from the bridge out into Dublin Bay would be deepened.
The number of cruise ship passengers coming into the city would treble from just under 110,000 a year to more than 320,000 through the development, Dublin Port chief executive Eamonn O'Reilly said.
The scheme is the first major project under the company’s 2012-2040 masterplan and accounts for at least a third of all port developments envisaged over that period.
It replaces the company’s previous controversial plan to infill 21 hectares of Dublin Bay. The plan was refused by An Bord Pleanála in June 2010 because of the potential detrimental environmental effects.
The infill plan, put to the board in 2008, was at the time "the only option available" to the company as property speculators had made land too expensive to buy, Mr O'Reilly said.
The crash has made it possible for the company to buy up the land it needs to make the basin project a viable alternative to the infill plan, but Mr O'Reilly said the company was not discounting seeking infill permission in the future.
“One of the huge challenges we have is trying to get the people of Dublin to accept and understand that Dublin is a port city . . . the port for a period of time was viewed as being the way of progress, that I think has completely reversed after the national wake-up call of going bust.”
If planning permission was secured in a year the project could be completed by 2019. The project would support some 200 construction-related jobs and Mr O’Reilly estimates the growth in volumes which it would facilitate would result in 320 jobs being created annually up to 2040.
The transfer of 10.5 hectares of land on the western side of Bull Island beside the north Bull Wall, adjacent to the Royal Dublin Golf Club, has been included as a “community gain” element in its application. The company will also make a payment of €1.2 million towards new visitor facilities on the island, and fund a masterplan study for the island.