Galway not applying for 2014 ocean race routing


THE ORGANISERS of the Galway stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race say they are “unlikely” to make a bid to host the event in 2014-15.

Let’s Do It Global managing director Micheline McNamara confirmed yesterday that no application was being prepared by the company for the next round-world routing, which would have to be lodged by next month.

Meanwhile, the city’s harbour company is to break new ground by seeking to redevelop the port under a section of the EU habitats directive not previously exercised in Ireland.

Galway has hosted the prestigious international ocean race twice – the first Irish port to do so. However, the current not-for-profit funding structure would have to change before Let’s Do It Global could consider running it again, Ms McNamara told The Irish Times.

“We had a phenomenal festival this year with 900,000 people recorded, and we believe there was a massive economic spin-off for the city,” she said. “However, most other ports hosting it do so on a city or state partnership basis, and that’s what would have to happen here for it to return.”

An economic impact study on the 2012 Galway race finish is being prepared by Price Waterhouse consultants in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland.

A Deloitte Touche study of the 2009 stopover estimated the economic impact at €55.8 million with more than 650,000 visitors.

The €4 million fee for hosting this year’s event was paid directly to the Volvo Ocean Race by Fáilte Ireland, and the Galway organisers found it difficult to secure sponsorship in the current economic climate. However, Galway Harbour Company, which closed the port for the nine-day festival, and Galway City Council were major sponsors.

Galway harbour master Capt Brian Sheridan said yesterday that the harbour company would always be willing to open the docks to the event on the city’s behalf but pointed out that the logistics of organising it were very substantial.

Let’s Do It Global relied heavily on voluntary effort, but a number of State agencies – from the Defence Forces to the Marine Institute – participated in hosting events and providing logistical support for the global village.

Galway City Council said that while the event was a success, it would not be in a position to underwrite it. The local authority had given more than €1 million in both cash and kind to the event, and supported a number of festivals in the city throughout the year, a spokesman said.

Galway Chamber of Commerce called on the Government to provide the necessary support to secure a third successful bid for Galway.

Galway Harbour Company chief executive Eamon Bradshaw said that the port intended to break new ground in seeking to exercise a section of the EU habitats directive for its proposed extension. The harbour company plans to build a €200 million deepwater port on reclaimed land.

It had its initial strategic infrastructure application returned last year due to a failure to secure necessary approvals for preliminary investigations.

Mr Bradshaw said that the company was taking a new route, having examined previous planning applications involving sensitive habitats, which had ended up in the European Court of Justice.

He said that an application under article 6.4 of the EU habitats directive for a project classified under “imperative reasons for overriding public interest” would allow for restoration by the developer of a similar-sized area in compensation for potential loss of habitat.

Consultations were in train with An Bord Pleanála and other State agencies on the route for making this application, he said.