Dublin Port urged to cater for larger cruise vessels

Hearing into €200m expansion project hears from witnesses on potential environmental and economic impacts

If Dublin Port fails to expand to cater for cruise ships of over 300m in length, it will "become obsolete" and will be out of the burgeoning cruise business, a planning hearing has heard.

The hearing by An Bord Pleanála on the proposal to deepen the navigation channel to allow for bigger container and cruise ships began yesterday and is continuing.

The development is the first phase of the Dublin Port Company’s €200 million plan to more than double its throughput from about 29 million tonnes in 2013 to 60million tonnes in 2040.

Consultant engineer Luis Ajamil of US-based Bermello, Ajamil and Partners presented figures which he said showed Dublin Port had potential to deliver a high of over 424,000 cruise passengers in 2033.


He said interviews with cruise lines had established that the port and Dublin city had “brand name marquee recognition” but that there was a need for new facilities.

The hearing is being watched by Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, which is also competing to attract cruise passengers.

Mr Ajamil said people wanted to be close to the city on cruises and not “on a bus” to get to it. He said passengers usually only had a few hours in a city and wanted to use their time wisely.

In his presentation, he said it had been suggested that Dublin Port Company should not allocate land and berths to cruise, because there were other uses that generated a greater yield to the port.

This was an argument that went to the heart of the role and function of a port in a community.

The economic impact of cruises was mostly felt outside the tariffs and charges imposed by the Dublin Port Company, he said.

“Passengers will spend on tours, taxis, meals and many other things which far surpass the revenues of any port,” he said.

“The reality is that if Dublin Port does not reconfigure, then it goes the way of the dinosaur,” he said.

Other witnesses for Dublin Port Company also gave evidence to the oral hearing today on the potential environmental and ecological impacts of the redevelopment plan for the Alexandra Basin.

Three witnesses said there would be no negative impact on marine or bird life.

Environmental impact statements in relation to EU-protected areas and the protection of birds have been submitted with the planning application.

Marine biologist Dr Simon Berrow said that with full implementation of the mitigation measures outlined in the environmental impact statement (EIS), there would be "no significant impacts" from the proposed project on marine mammals, including the harbour porpoise, within Dublin Bay.

He said there was “potential” for the proposed construction to negatively impact on marine mammals through disturbance including acoustic, piling, dredging and dumping activities.

But assuming the acoustic models taken in tests were correct, the noise levels 500m upstream and downstream of piling would be at “background levels”.

Chartered environmentalist and professional ornithologist Richard Nairn told the hearing Dublin Bay was "one of the most intensively studied areas for birds in Ireland".

He said it had been demonstrated there would be “no significant impacts” of the proposed development on bird populations in Dublin Port or the surrounding areas.

Eugene McKeown, a senior consultant with RPS Group PLC, told the hearing that underwater noise impacts of the project had been considered in detail in the planning process.

Mr McKeown said elevated noise levels from piling would be contained within the basin and a short stretch of the River Liffey channel.

“Underwater noise from this element of the project will not propagate effectively out into the wider bay.”

Some 38 statutory prescribed bodies are listed among those who may have an interest in the project. Thirty interest groups have sent in written submissions to Bord Pleanála and are expected to be heard over the next week.