Jeanie Johnston leaves Dublin Port graving dock for last time

Campaigners reiterate call to save Georgian working docks in Grand Canal Basin

 Jeanie Johnston being floated in dry dock at Dublin Port: it is the last ship in the port’s graving dock, which is being  filled in as part of a €230 million project. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Jeanie Johnston being floated in dry dock at Dublin Port: it is the last ship in the port’s graving dock, which is being filled in as part of a €230 million project. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

History was marked at Dublin Port on Monday when tall ship Jeanie Johnston floated out of its graving dock.

The replica 19th century “Famine” ship is the last vessel to be worked on in the port’s graving dock, which is being closed and filled in as part of the €230 million Alexandra Basin project.

The five-year project aims to allow larger ships to routinely call at Dublin, turn within Alexandra Basin and berth as far upriver as East Link Bridge.

Micheál Ó Cionna, who manages the Jeanie Johnston as a tourist attraction and museum, said the ship would return to its berth with Dublin Port tug assistance and would re-open later this week.

Mr Ó Cionna said the closure of the port graving dock emphasised the need for Minister for Heritage Heather Humphreys to save the last docks of this type in the Liffey area – on the Grand Canal Basin

Preserved and reused

The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland and the Docklands Business Forum began a petition last year asking Ms Humphreys to ensure the Georgian architecture in the basin, comprising lock gates and graving docks for ships, are “restored, preserved and reused” for community gain.

The two groups believe Waterways Ireland wants to sell the graving docks site for further high-rise development on the Liffey mouth. Waterways Ireland has said it is “currently developing options” for the area known as city block 19, including the graving docks, to meet strategic development zone requirements.

The graving docks and lock gates are as important to the heritage of the area as Battery Park is to New York, according to Docklands Business Forum’s chief executive Alan Robinson.

The business forum’s plan cites Les Berges de Seine in Paris and the Albert Dock in Liverpool as examples of successful maritime heritage projects, and argues that the European Commission has identified maritime tourism as a key growth area.

Mr Ó Cionna said that the largest of the three docks, which currently holds former Aran island ferry Naomh Éanna, could be used to service the Jeanie Johnston, while the smaller dock could be used to service smaller marine leisure vessels.

“In that context, it would be ridiculous to turn them into areas for office development,”he said.