Reaching its potential

The key seaport in the south of Ireland, the Port of Cork has developed its infrastructure and services over the years to become one of only two Irish ports capable of servicing the requirements of all six shipping modes: lift-on, lift-off (lo/lo), ro/ro, liquid bulk, dry bulk, break bulk and cruise. Facilities and operations are located primarily in five areas of Cork’s natural deepwater harbour, with bulk and general cargo operations taking place at City Quays; lo/lo, ro/ro and bulk services in Tivoli; ro/ro, lo/lo and bulks at Ringaskiddy, oil importation at Whitegate and cruise operations in Cobh. To ensure optimum efficiency and safety, the Port of Cork has undergone investments of €72 million over the last decade, with approximately ten million euros invested in enhancing cruise operations and the majority going on improving infrastructure and facilities in the commercial area.

Reaching as far as St Petersburg and Central America, the Port of Cork has an average of ten scheduled departures in a week. This includes Grimaldi Lines’ ro/ro and lo/lo vessels departing from Cork Ringaskiddy to Southampton and to the Mediterranean on a Sunday, Maersk Shipping’s lo/lo vessels departing from Cork Ringaskiddy and sailing to Tilbury, Rotterdam, Bremerhaven, St Petersburg and Central America, scheduled lo-lo vessels to Rotterdam, Le Havre, Antwerp and Brittany Ferries link from Cork to Roscoff.

In addition to serving the shipping industry, the Port of Cork has also been at the forefront of meeting the exploration and development needs of various multi-national firms since offshore exploration first began off the south coast of Ireland in 1970. The benefits of choosing Cork as a supply base include a well-located deep water port, 24/7 unrestricted access, availability of bunkers, a secure area for hazardous material, a wide range of competent and experienced engineering service companies, a substantial open and covered storage capacity and Cork International Airport in close proximity.

Alongside shipping and offshore activities, the Port of Cork also offers cruising and ferry services and is the only port in Ireland with a dedicated cruise berth in Cobh. Moreover, the port can also handle cruise liners in Ringaskiddy Deepwater Quay and the City Quays. Offering passengers a unique experience, Cobh passengers disembark directly onto the quayside alongside the Cobh Heritage Centre, which provides an interesting illustration of Irish history over the last two centuries. Meanwhile, the town of Cobh is located within 100 metres of the cruise terminal and offers passengers a fascinating combination of history, archeology, flora and fauna, a visit to Fota Wildlife Park, shopping or simple relaxation.

Although Cobh welcomes more than 50 cruise liners every year, few cruise visits generate as much anticipation by locals and passengers alike as the annual visit of the ‘Sea Princess’, which arrived on Tuesday 14th July 2015 with 1500 Australians and 400 Kiwis as part of a roundthe- world cruise from Sydney to Sydney. Departing on 22nd May, the vessel had visited over 20 ports by the time its reached Cobh, which went above and beyond to welcome both passengers and crew. Discussing this major visit, commercial director of the Port of Cork and chairman of Cruise Europe Michael McCarthy says: “It is a fantastic event and the Australians are really fond of Irish activity and up for the craic. We had a broad range of activities taking place and everyone involved is absolutely delighted with how the day went.”

Elaborating further on the benefits for passengers visiting the Port of Cork, he continues: “What is unique about this port environment is that you step off the vessel and the nearest shop or pub is within 200 metres. The cruise industry is very important to us and we have nurtured it over the last 20 years, which has really paid dividends as we are now on the minds of cruise executives and itinerary planners when they look to Britain and Ireland at the start and end of the season. Alongside our Australian and Kiwi passengers, who have been visiting for Australia day since 2009, we also have American, British and German passengers visit us; these customers take up around 70 to 80 per cent of our passenger group, with French, Spanish, Italian, Canadian, Australian and so on taking the remaining 20 to 30 per cent.”

With more than 100,000 passengers and 30,000 crew visiting Cobh every year, the cruise industry contributes greatly to the local economy and helps provide employment to the region, as Michael states: “If you look at a whole season, where we anticipate 100,000 passengers and 30,000 crews will arrive and depart at the terminal, the investment into the local economy is going to be approximately 15 million euros. This is a phenomenal amount and, with indications that around 30 per cent of people that visit come back for a land-based holiday, a fantastic opportunity to showcase what Cobh and the greater Cork- Munster area has to offer.”

Aware that cruise liners and cruise companies are further investing in bigger and better ships, Michael is keen for the Port of Cork and other ports in Ireland to capitalise on this exceptional growth. “With 44 ships on order over the next seven years, ports in Ireland that are serious about staying in the cruise industry need to invest to be able to cater for these ships,” he confirms.

Committed to preparing for future demand in all areas, the Port of Cork has also received planning permission for a 100 million euro investment at Ringaskiddy Port. ‘Phase One’ of this major project will include the construction of a multi-purpose berth at Ringaskiddy East, which will ensure Cork Harbour remains a key trading port that can accommodate large ships carrying a range of cargoes. Ringaskiddy East will also accommodate unaccompanied ro/ro freight as it will include a 200 metre long berth, a new container yard and marshalling yard. With ‘Phase One’ anticipated to be complete by 2018, the overall project will also facilitate the transferring of cargo handling activities from Tivoli and the City Quays on a phased basis, as Michael notes: “This project will have a cascade effect on the whole development of the harbour as it will accelerate the move of ships from the city, where we currently have three quarters of a million tonnes of cargo, to deeper waters, which will allow the city to breathe and develop.

“Ultimately, the Ringaskiddy Port redevelopment project will ensure Cork Harbour can handle the increase in container ships’ size and capacity over the next 30 to 40 years,” says Michael. “Unless we invest to accommodate the short, medium and long term needs of the region we will be left behind. We need to be a multi-modal port that allows us to be sustainable and flexible and reach our potential as a key player in the whole economic promotion and development of the South of Ireland and indeed the whole of Ireland,” he concludes.

World-leading multi-modal port
Invested 72 million euros over the last ten years
Further major developments planned