February 21: Investment at Foynes offers huge potential

This week’s announcement of a €50m capital investment in Foynes port is good news, not only for Foynes itself but for the region as a whole.

This week’s announcement of a €50m capital investment in Foynes port is good news, not only for Foynes itself but for the region as a whole.

As part of its 30-year-strategy, Vision 2041, The Shannon Foynes Port Company plans to double its cargo trade over the next three decades and this investment marks a big step in that direction.

The importance of the Shannon Estuary ports to the economy of Limerick and the wider Mid-West region cannot be overstated. In 2013 the company handled 10.5 million tonnes of cargo, worth over €6bn in international trade.

Foynes itself is Ireland’s only deep water port – a status that is set to become increasingly significant with the arrival of a new generation of supertankers due to come into service shortly as a result of the widening of the Panama Canal.

The €50m announced this week, to be spent over the next seven years, will see over 8.5 acres added to the port itself, which in turn will give it much increased capacity to handle these giant vessels.

In real terms, the port company predicts that this expansion will lead to the creation of up to 2,000 new jobs directly and attract investment of up to €2bn, leading to many more indirect jobs in the longer term.

This potential for attracting private investment was highlighted this week when it was confirmed that two private companies – CPL and Argosea – will invest €26m between them developing their operations at the port in the coming year.

While these investments are to be welcomed, there are two other key elements that must be put in place so that the port company’s ambitious strategy can be fully realised. One is the reopening of the rail link between Foynes and Limerick and the other is the upgrade of the N69 linking the port with the national motorway network.

Planning and design work is currently underway for the N69 upgrade with a number of possible route options to be presented to the public in the coming month.

Delays similar to those which stymied the proposed Adare bypass will not benefit anyone so it is to be hoped that all the stakeholders in the region can work together to ensure this crucial project is delivered as quickly as possible.