LIMERICK and the region have been promoted as a freight and logistics hub at a London meeting hosted by the Mid-West Regional Authority (MWRA).
Air cargo is central to the Government’s proposed new direction for Shannon Airport, which has already signed a memorandum of understanding with US firm Lynxs on developing a world-class freight hub at the airport.
And the MWRA and Irish Exporters Association believes many of the elements are in place to develop not just air cargo but freight on the waterways, road and rail.
Through its participation in the EU-funded Weastflows project, the MWRA chaired the meeting in London to discuss methods to promote the major northwest European freight gateways - including the Seine, Liverpool-Manchester and London-Thames - in terms of their connectivity to other European gateways and onwards to major global logistics hubs in the USA and Asia.
“The importance of an effective and well-managed gateway for freight movements cannot be overstated for a peripheral European region such as the Mid-West,” explained Liam Conneally, director of the MWRA.
“The Limerick-Shannon gateway is at the heart of the region and is an important contributor to the economic development of the Mid-West. Ireland’s exports continue to rise in 2012, despite the challenges faced by our key export markets, and our exporters rely on an efficient transport system to move their products within the northwest Europe area and beyond. Furthermore, if Ireland is to meet its commitments in terms of reducing CO2 emissions, the region needs to learn the best methods for encouraging modal shifts from road to more sustainable forms of freight transport.”
Weastflows aims to improve freight logistics in northwest Europe along a west-east axis and Limerick-Shannon, as the westernmost point, was “a key location” for freight movements, according to Mr Conneally.
Howard Knott, who is transport and logistics director at the Irish Exporters Association, identified Weastflows as a significant opportunity for the Mid-West to up its game.
“The Mid-West and South-West regions are becoming increasingly important in Ireland’s drive out of economic recession through export growth. Firms in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, healthcare products and agribusiness all have enormous potential to grow their activities in the region. A crucial factor in this endeavour is the development of world-class freight transport and logistics services supporting these firms across the whole spectrum of road, rail, sea and air transport,” said Mr Knott.
“The developing co-operation with the Weastflows partners enables us to bring other experience to Irish issues while also addressing problems in Europe that make the Irish export supply chain sub-optimal.”
Linda Newport, EU projects officer with MWRA, explained that the benefits of participating in the four-year Weastflows project included an opportunity to improve the connectivity from the region to the major northwest Europe transport corridors
The authority would work with Irish Exporters Association and other partners to “improve links with the Seine gateway, the Liverpool-Manchester gateway and the London-Thames gateway, among others,” Ms Newport said.