LIMERICK City Council is to seek to have the Shannon Estuary included in a major European network of ports.
At this month’s meeting, councillors unanimously backed a motion by Cllr Diarmuid Scully that the City Council apply to the European Commission to have the estuary included in the ‘Motorway of the Sea of Western Europe’.
The main aim of being part of this network is to improve communications between all regions of the continent.
Chairman of the economic committee Cllr Scully believes membership of this network - which stretches from Gibraltar to the Baltic Sea - will help develop Foynes beyond the aims set out in its 30 year masterplan.
The port at Foynes is the deepest in Ireland, and one of the deepest in Europe.
“Global trade is projected to double in the next 20 years. Most of that is carried through ships. The simple reality is there will not be sufficient port facilities available in Western Europe to take the cargo. Foynes is the last undeveloped deep water port which can be accessed. There are huge projects being discussed in other areas, including to create a deep water port. But we have a perfect natural harbour here, and it is something we should be looking at developing,” he said.
If the Shannon Estuary was not part of the network it will make getting permission for major European projects very difficult, Cllr Scully warned.
The current blueprint for the Foynes Estuary –which include plans to develop land around the site for warehousing, and a deep water berth – are a “missed opportunity”, he said.
“The plan is pretty modest,” he said. “It is a ‘steady as she goes’ plan. It is nowhere near as ambitious as it should be. The potential is there to develop Foynes as a major European port to potentially employ thousands of people, rather than simply keep it as it is,” he said.
Before the European Commission considers any application from the estuary, it will require the backing of at least one more local authority.
To this end, Cllr Scully has sounded out the Mid-Western Regional Authority with a view to approaching Limerick County Council, Clare County Council and Kerry County Council to support the application, which could be made as early as autumn.