Cruising forward

The history of the Port of Cork can be traced back to 1814, when the Cork Harbour Commissioners was founded, in order to operate the city’s seaport facilities and harbour. Nearly two centuries later, following the Harbours Act from 1996, all revalued assets of the Commissioners were transferred to the Port of Cork Company, the new statutory authority responsible for the management, control, operation, and development of the Port of Cork Company. In 1972, the port released its Cork Harbour Development Programme, becoming the first Irish seaport at the time to set up a planning and development department. Today, the Port of Cork remains Ireland’s second busiest port, and one of the only two in the country, which services the requirements of all six shipping modes: lift-on lift-off, roll-on roll-off, liquid bulk, dry bulk, break bulk, and cruise. Since Brexit, it has often been cited as a strategic connection point of national significance, which needs heavy investment, so that it efficiently receives and dispatches goods in and out of Ireland in case the country cannot use the comland-bridge with Britain after the UK leaves the EU.

When the Port of Cork published its 2010 Strategic Development Plan, it became clear that the company was committed to launch the Ringaskiddy Port Redevelopment project. One of the four locations in Cork’s natural deepwater harbour, Ringaskiddy offers all types of services to port’s users, save for cruise. The redevelopment was deemed necessary, as the port was looking for solutions to overcome the physical constraints it was experiencing in handling larger vessels at its current facility in Tivoli. In May 2015, the Port of Cork was granted permission to begin works on the port facilities. The project is estimated to approach a total investment of €80 million, and the Port recently received €30 million from the EIB (European Investment Bank) in support of the programme.

Three key areas of development are currently being advanced at Ringaskiddy. These include a new container terminal with an initial 360-metre berth at Ringaskiddy East, internal road improvements, as well as upgrades to the external road entrance into the existing deepwater berth, and the construction of a new amenity area, which will include a new public pier and a slipway at Paddy’s Point, Ringaskiddy. In 2017, alterations to the terms of the original agreement were made and approved by An Bord Pleanala – the independent, statutory, quasi-judicial body that decides on appeals from planning decisions made by local authorities in Ireland, according to which the Port was granted permission to deliver more efficient container handling facilities and replace the existing container terminal at Tivoli, thus securing the Cork Container Terminal as an international gateway for trade for the years to come.

One of the highlights for the port in 2017, was the signing of an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with NextDecade Corporation, a US-based LNG development company, to explore a joint development opportunity for a new FSRU (floating storage regasification unit) and associated LNG import terminal infrastructure in Cork Harbour. The FSRU development would be supplied with LNG sourced from NextDecade’s proposed Rio Grande LNG export facility at the Port of Brownsville in South Texas, thus providing a source of competitively-priced energy to Ireland and its partners. Relying on NextDecade’s vast experience in developing global LNG projects, the Port of Cork hopes that the new partnership will support incremental opportunities, such as small scale LNG distribution and bunkering for LNG- fuelled vessels.

In a bid to further strengthen its international relationships, the Port of Cork signed a Sister Port Agreement with the Port of Xiamen. The latter is located on Xiamen Island, the adjacent mainland coast, and along the estuary of the Jiulongjiang River in southern Fujian, China, and is the country’s eighth largest container port. The aim of the agreement, signed in July 2017, is to promote freight, the cruise business, logistics, and other business opportunities within the two ports, including the encouragement of new shipping companies to set up direct lines between them. “We anticipate good collaboration and exchanging of port knowledge into the future, and we know we can learn a lot from Xiamen, in terms of port redevelopment and expanding our own port services,” Port of Cork’s Chairman, John Mullins said.

Early in 2018, Mr. Mullins was reappointed as Chairman by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Shane Ross. His mandate will last three years, which, he reckons, “promise to be the most transformational period in the port’s history,” as the transition from a river port to a sea port will be completed over the period. “Land made available by this transition will provide Cork City with the ability to address an exciting commercial and municipal future by enabling the development of the Docklands and Tivoli,” Mr. Mullins pointed out.

2018 for the Port of Cork will also be remembered for the introduction of the first ever direct ferry line between Ireland and Spain. In January, Brittany Ferries announced the beginning of the service that will link Cork and Santander, and the first sailing is scheduled to be completed on 2 May. It caps Brittany Ferries’ 40th anniversary in Ireland, with the transport company having operated the Cork to Roscoff route since 1978. The Port of Cork will benefit from the new service, as it will facilitate and enhance significant freight and tourist activity to and from Cork.

More than 180,000 passengers are expected to come ashore in 2018, following the announcement for an anticipated increase of 30 per cent in the number of cruise liner visits to Cork. Should the predictions materialise, the local economy will receive a boost of nearly €15 million. Ninety-four cruise liners are expected at the Port this year, and the first of them – MV Astoria, was welcomed in March. “It is very encouraging to see cruise lines bringing their newest vessels to Cork on maiden calls and choosing Cobh as part of their cruising route,” Port of Cork Commercial Manager, Michael McCarthy commented, also revealing that the company is seeing a high volume of calls for 2019, too, highlighting that the Port of Cork is maintaining its positive course well into the future.

Port of Cork
Second busiest port in Ireland
Implementing the Ringaskiddy Port Redevelopment project
Serves the requirements of all six shipping modes