Significant funding needed to accommodate cruise ships – Dublin Port

Financial and environmental concerns raised with Minister for Transport

 Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Port, said there were serious concerns about the effect of cruise ships on air quality. Photograph: Enda O’Dowd

Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Port, said there were serious concerns about the effect of cruise ships on air quality. Photograph: Enda O’Dowd


Dublin Port Company has told the Government it needs significant investment from the State or commercial tourist bodies, if the port is to return to accommodating large numbers of cruise ships.

The port company announced earlier this year that is planning to cut the number of cruise ships from 172 in 2018 to 80 in 2021. The decision has been criticised by Retail Excellence Ireland and Cruise Ireland who said it could cost the wider economy at least €50 million a year.

In a briefing document prepared for Minister for Transport Shane Ross the Dublin Port Company said it would be technically possible to use the proposed North Wall Quay Extension, after 2023, to handle up to 600,000 tourists a year and accommodate the largest cruise ships yet developed.

But crucially, the company has told Mr Ross said there are key financial and environmental questions that must first be answered.

Among these is whether accommodating the cruise liners – which it accepts is good business for the wider Dublin region – is good business for the port. The document shows cruise ships account for just 150 out of a total of 7,969 visits by ships to Dublin port in 2019. They accounted for just 2.5 per cent of the port’s total revenue of more than €90 million in 2018.

The briefing note for Mr Ross said the port could fund “part” of the redevelopment of the North Wall Quay extension, “but additional funding would be needed from other sources” given the scale of the cost involved.

It suggested other sources of funding could include Dublin City Council; Fáilte Ireland; the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and others in both the private and public sector.

But in addition to financial support for providing infrastructure, the port company said it would need guaranteed service agreements from cruise companies for “at least 10 years”, to cover its own investment in staff and facilities.

Air pollution

A further condition was that on environmental grounds it was stipulated that cruise ships should turn off their on-board power generators while berthed in Dublin, and plug in to the national grid. The port is concerned that large cruise ships have approximately 100MW, or 130,000 Horse Power of diesel driven power plant which emits sulphur dioxide (SO2), sulphur trioxide (SO3) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), known carcinogens.

Dublin Port Company chief executive Eamonn O’Reilly told The Irish Times there were “serious concerns about the effect of large cruise ships on air quality in the port area of the city”.

Mr O’Reilly also said capacity at the port was constrained due to space needed for customs following Brexit. He said, “cargo has grown and is the priority” and cited a “greatly increased volume of shipping activity” at Alexandra Basin, which “will be operationally challenging” in the future if cruise ships vie with cargo ships for berth space.

Mr O’Reilly said given that the returns from cruise traffic went mainly to the broader Dublin region and the costs of the North Wall Quay Extension would be very significant, “from a business point of view there is no way Dublin Port Company would take this risk on its own”.

Dublin port has commissioned a report on the viability of returning to accommodating large numbers of cruise ships. That report is expected to be published “imminently” according the Dublin Port Company. Its publication will be followed by a period of consultation when all stakeholdres will be invited to submit their views on the future of cruise liners.