The gateway to Ireland

When Brendan Keating, CEO of Port of Cork Company, states that he is “very pleased” with how business has been over the last several years, one needs not only to take his word for it. Indeed, a quick glance over its most recent statistics show that, in 2018, traffic through both the Port of Cork and its neighbouring Bantry Bay Port Company reached 10.6 million tonnes, which represents an increase of three per cent compared to 2017.

In the same time span, total imports increased by eight per cent, exports by five per cent, and total container volumes through both its Tivoli and Ringaskiddy Container Terminals grew by six per cent – with a total of 229,762 TEU’s handled, while oil traffic handled through Whitegate Oil Refinery – owned by Canadian company Irving Oil – rose by four per cent. That is all before adding the fact that, in 2018, the Port of Cork handled 95 cruise liners bringing in over 157,000 passengers and crew to the region.

“The last three-to-four years have provided us with solid year-on-year growth, primarily in our container business, but also when it comes to our bulk and cruise operations,” Brendan states. “This has been driven, in part, by increased levels of activity within the agri-food and tourism sectors. In the case of the latter, it comes as a result of the introduction of additional ferry services in and out of the Port of Cork in 2018, including new RoPax services to Roscoff and Santander, operated by Brittany Ferries.”

A key seaport in the south of Ireland, the Port of Cork is one of only two Irish ports capable of servicing the requirements of all six shipping modes, lift-on lift-off, roll-on roll-off, liquid bulk, dry bulk, break bulk and cruise. Considering its importance, it is not surprising to find that, since 2000, significant capital has been invested on improving its infrastructure and facilities. Among these is the Ringaskiddy Port Redevelopment Project, which was officially granted planning permission in May 2015. The objective of the redevelopment is to allow the Port of Cork to overcome the physical constraints in handling larger vessels and respond to the growing trend towards port-centred logistics.

In 2018, the redevelopment project – and the port in general – marked a major milestone with the launch of its new €80 million Cork Container Terminal, which is presently around half way towards completion. Work is being undertaken by BAM Civil, with a contract also having been signed with Liebherr Container Cranes to supply two Post Panamax size ship-to-shore gantry cranes.

“Once operational – which we currently anticipate happening by the end of Q1 2020 – the new terminal will enable the port to handle up to 450,000 TEU per annum, which is naturally something we are very excited about,” Brendan continues. “We already possess significant natural depth in Cork harbour, and our work on Ringaskiddy Port will enable us to accommodate vessels of 5500 to 6000 TEU, which will provide us with a great deal of additional potential for increasing container traffic further still. This is just one of the many opportunities that our investment activities will create as we strive to future proof the Port of Cork as an international gateway for trade, and it is up to us to maximise these in the best way we can.”

While the construction of the Cork Container Terminal represents the critical component at the heart of the overall Ringaskiddy Port Redevelopment Project, it is far from the only development planned. “Following the completion of the terminal,” Brendan reveals, “we will then turn to our plans to extend the Ringaskiddy Deep Bulk Berth. This will, again, be a large-scale project, and in the coming months we will be working to ensure that all appropriate funding is put into place.”

Bantry Bay Port has also shared the spoils when it comes to investment, as Brendan goes on to add. “We have completed an €8 million renovation of Bantry Bay Port Terminal, upgrading it extensively. This will provide additional services and facilities to the likes of fishing trawlers and leisure craft that visit the port. We have also added in a new mariner at the port as part of our strategy to sustain and grow business in the local region.”

Going forward, and even in the face of continued uncertainties related to Brexit, the Port of Cork has much to be positive about as it expects to see further growth in traffic. “We are very encouraged with our projections when it comes to container traffic volumes for the coming months, and we are equally as optimistic when it comes to the volume of bulk cargo coming into, and out of, the port on a weekly basis,” Brendan adds. “On the cruise side, we are anticipating a bumper season, boosted by the addition of our newest roll-on roll-off services to Roscoff and Santander, with 102 cruise lines currently scheduled for 2019, and a projection of 113-to-120 for 2020.

“As far as the longer-term future is concerned, we will work towards the consolidation of our container business as we steadily build in the direction of our volume handling capacity of 450,000 TEU, and possibly beyond. At the same time, we will be making every effort to reach a goal of being able to handle up to 2.4 million tonnes of bulk cargo per annum, and increase our number of cruise line calls to 125 a year. Lastly, we will be working towards producing an entirely new masterplan for the port, setting out a vision for 2020-to-2050 and the broader scheme for its development over that time. After all, as anyone in our industry will know, when one programme comes to an end, the next one has to be ready to start immediately!”

Port of Cork Company
Key seaport in the south of Ireland
10.6 million tonnes of trade passed through in 2018
€80 million construction of Cork Container Terminal underway