A CHAPTER in the city’s industrial history has been closed with the cessation of oil imports into Limerick Port.
Topaz confirmed this week that it is “winding down” operations at its terminal at Courtbrack Avenue, off the Dock Road. The facility is 50 years old but stringent new safety standards have meant no petrol has been stored in the massive tanks there for at least seven years. Fuel imports into Limerick Port had been confined to road diesel, gas oil and kerosene in recent years.
The company expressed its regret this week that the closure of the terminal would result in the loss of six jobs.
The former Irish Shell terminal was acquired by Topaz when it completed the acquisition of Shell and Statoil’s retail and commercial fuel business in Ireland in 2006.
But the oil importation business has not been lost to the region as a whole with Topaz Energy Ireland relocating its activity to the 80,000 cubic metre terminal opened by the Atlantic Fuel Supply Company in Foynes in October 2010.
According to Shannon Foynes Port Company, this state-of-the-art €30 million facility had not only secured existing oil shipments for the region but seen imports into the Estuary increase by 40 per cent.
A spokesman for Topaz this week confirmed to the Limerick Leader that it is “ceasing its operations at its oil terminal in Limerick Port”.
“The volume of fuel shipments into Limerick had been limited over the last 24 months with the last shipment into the port taking place in May. Operations on the site are currently being wound down,” he said.
It is understood that additional shipping costs incurred by bringing the smaller tankers required to enter Limerick Port are part of the decision.
“With the construction of a new state-of-the art facility in Foynes and the shipping limitations in Limerick, the decision had been taken to relocate the activity to the Foynes terminal,” the Topaz spokesman said.
“This move follows a similar move in Galway where Topaz recently opened its new 40,000-tonne import terminal and strengthens our commitment to the Mid-West region. These new terminals have higher safety standards and operational flexibility and will enhance Topaz’s ability to service its many customers throughout the region.”
Shannon Foynes Port Company stressed this week that it was “at all times actively and competitively pursuing new business for Limerick Port”.
“In the last 18 months alone we have secured significant new tonnages in timber and industrial products for the port and will continue to market it and all our facilities aggressively.”
On oil imports, the port company said the Estuary as a whole was performing better than ever before.
“Overall we are delighted to say that oil imports into the Shannon Estuary and Shannon Foynes Port Company have increased by over 40 percent over the last two years and this is largely due to the state-of the-art facility developed by Atlantic Fuel Supply Company at Foynes Port. Essentially, this has not only meant that we have retained traditional oil shipments but the market has actually grown considerably for us. The market now demands these type of standards and facilities were it not for the AFSC terminal, the oil shipments that once came into Limerick Port would have been lost to the region altogether,” a spokesman said.
Closure of the Dock Road terminal, meanwhile, could in time trigger development around the docks. Building restrictions apply to sites where flammable or hazardous materials are stored under the EU Seveso directive, which takes its name from the site of a serious industrial accident near Milan in 1976.
The directive was cited by Limerick City Council in refusing planning permission to McInerney Homes, the developers of Alandale, to build two drive-through restaurants on the Dock Road just over two years ago.
Topaz said it was not the owner of the site and “as such has no input into its future use”.
“At present there are no immediate plans to take the tanks down but Topaz will decommission the site,” the company spokesman added.