Dublin Port defends cargo terminal plan after Eamon Ryan criticism

Minister takes issue over reliance on road freight, but port says project is ‘fully aligned’ with national policy

Dublin Port Company has reacted to criticism of its development plans from Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, saying the project is “fully aligned” with national and EU policy.

The company said it “notes the Minister’s comments” and “looks forward to engaging further with him in this regard”.

The Port Company said its 3FM project, of which Mr Ryan was critical, “is consistent with the Dublin Port Masterplan 2040 which was first published in 2010″.

The project envisages the construction of Ireland’s largest container terminal with a capacity to handle more than 350,000 containers each year – twice the combined total of all other parts in the country.


The company said it has already secured planning permission for the first two parts of its master plan.

The company said “3FM – the third and final project – was initiated in 2021 and is now in its second consultation phase which has seen public information evenings held throughout this week”.

“Dublin Port is fully committed to the sustainable development of its assets in line with its statutory responsibilities and the national priorities and we will take all views and feedback into account as part of this process” the company said.

“The Masterplan, including the 3FM project, is fully aligned with EU policy, national policy, regional policy and local policy,” the company’s short statement added.

Mr Ryan wrote to the port company chairman, Jerry Grant, on Thursday expressing “significant concerns” about the 3FM project in the South Docks, which aims to increase the capacity of the State’s largest port to 77 million tonnes per year within the next two decades.

The Minister has taken particular issue with the plan’s reliance on road freight and the exclusion of rail freight. He has also poured cold water on its ambitious growth assumptions.

Some of the lands earmarked for dock development should be used for housing and to expand the adjacent Poolbeg nature reserve, he said.

Dublin Port Company initially published its plans for the development of the port in 2010 after a debate about moving the port to north Co Dublin or elsewhere.

The first phase of its master plan, the redevelopment of Alexandra Basin, has been completed. The second phase proposes a reorganisation of land and facilities with two new berths in the north port area and has secured planning permission.

The third phase, or 3FM, involves the development of the South Docks area and a new bridge for freight traffic linking the south and north port areas.

Some 70 per cent of the incoming freight in Dublin Port remains within a 90km radius of the city, a factor that creates difficulties for rail freight as this would also be the State’s busiest passenger rail and commuter district.

Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said Mr Ryan shower “poor judgment” in his remarks on rail freight.

“It has been proven by many international reports that rail freight does not work over short distances, and Ireland east to west is a short distance”.

Mr Drennan pointed to the Irish Rail marshalling yards at East Wall beside Dublin Port but said they were largely unused as most freight coming through the port ended within the greater Dublin region. He said farther from Dublin the supply system still needed to take goods “the last mile” by roads, and that taking goods partly by rail “if it were feasible” would add time and cost.

Ibec was contacted for comment. The Irish Exporters Association said its chief executive was not available and so it could not comment.

Dublin Chamber declined to comment on Mr Ryan’s remarks.

The master plan for the development of Dublin Port is noted in the State’s National Ports Policy and the Dublin City Development Plan.

The Government’s National Development Plan 2021 – 2030, signed off by the heads of Government says: “Three big capital infrastructure programmes are currently ongoing in Tier 1 Ports, namely Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes. These will enhance national and international connectivity, provide for future increases in trade and national port capacity requirements by facilitating more vessels, larger sized vessels and increased tonnage and throughput.”

Specifically, in relation to the 3FM phase of the Dublin Port master plan, the National Development Plan notes: “The company has commenced the first stage of stakeholder and public consultation in respect of the third and final master plan project the 3FM project. The company anticipates commencing pre-application consultation with An Bord Pleánala in 2022.″

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist