A DOUBLING of trade, a new deep-water berth at Foynes and the promotion of the estuary as an Ocean Energy Hub are all part of a masterplan which has been drawn to guide Shannon Foynes Port Company over the next 30 years. And if all goes well, it could lead to a 25% increase in jobs.
The plan, entitled Vision 2041, is due to be launched later in the spring but members of the public are invited to a public consultation this Thursday evening between 5-7pm in Foynes Community Centre. The draft plan is available on the company’s website and public can also make any submissions or observations by post, email or phone by February 1.
The plan’s authors, however, stress that the masterplan must be seen as part of a bigger picture for the Shannon Estuary as a whole and specifically, will feed into and be consistent with the Shannon Integrated Framework Plan (see below).
However, Vision 2041 outlines what the company hopes to achieve in its own domain over the next three decades.
The company currently has throughput to 10m tonnes a year but expects this to double to 20m by 2041. The plan predicts growth will come through increased throughput in Foynes and the other facilities in the estuary such as Moneypoint, Shannon and Aughinish while throughput in Limerick is expected to remain constant.
In particular, the plan notes that the number of bigger ships has increased eight-fold since 1999 and this trend is likely to continue as suppliers look for greater economies of scale. This, the port company believes, provides an unique opportunity for Foynes which is the only deep-water port in Ireland capable of dealing with these bigger Panamax and post-Panamax ships – and the only deep-water port with a rail link.
As a consequence, the plan envisages the building of a deep-water berth at Foynes and says that, following a preliminary assessment, Foynes Island would be the preferred option. It also says that an additional 127 hectares of land will be needed. Currently, the company has 10 hectares of unutilised land and a further 28 hectares has been “identified” by Limerick County Council, leaving an additional 89 hectares to be located.
“Spatially, the only logical expansion area is to the south east of the existing port,” the plan states, pointing out that additional berthage will be needed at Foynes from 2020. But it also says there are opportunities for “remote operations” at Askeaton Industrial Park which is currently empty.
The plan stresses the importance of the rail-link which has been out of operation since 2000 but could be brought back into service for as little as €8m
Regarding improved road access, currently 100,000 heavy vehicles move through Foynes each year but this is forecast to increase to 150,000 by 2020 alone.The company has had a “long-term objective” of building a link to the N21, the plan states, but adds: “The deferral of the Adare by-pass, the N21 upgrade and the Atlantic Corridor has resulted in a deterioration of traffic conditions on the N21.”