EU funding chief 'impressed' following Foynes Port visit

Péter Balázs 'confident' that Brexit will have minimal effect on the port's trade

Maria Flannery

Reporter:

Maria Flannery

EU funding chief 'impressed' following Foynes Port visit

Péter Balázs, European Coordinator for the North Sea-Mediterranean Core Network Corridor with Pat Keating, CEO of Shannon Foynes Port Company Picture: Sean Curtin

A LEADING European Commission funding representative said that the UK stands to be worse hit than Ireland following Brexit and that Foynes Port will play a huge role in trade between the two countries.

Professor Péter Balázs, who is the European coordinator for the North Sea Mediterranean Core Network Corridor, was in Foynes this week to get an update on the company’s programme of investment, which is part-funded by the corridor.

He was greeted by Shannon Foynes Port Company CEO Pat Keating and a local political delegation.

Mr Balázs, who visited the port for the first time two years ago, also said that Shannon Foynes Port Company’s current investment programme is moving in the right direction in a post-Brexit EU.

Speaking of the Brexit implications, he said that “we don’t know yet at this very early stage” what the UK’s framework conditions will be.

“But I am confident that any form of free trade arrangement between the UK and the rest of the EU would not affect the trade for here,” he said.

“It will have a serious impact on trade with the outside world, mostly for the UK, much less for Europe. A lot of new agreements will be concluded, but for trade [to happen] between the UK and the rest of the EU, including Ireland, transport will be needed and I think that Shannon Foynes is going in the right direction, in a nutshell,” he added.

Professor Balázs said that while it is too early to predict what will flow from Brexit discussions, there will be some changes in financing. He also hinted that the North Sea Mediterranean Corridor could be extended to include Foynes Port.

“I can only hope that we can maintain the integrity of the existing North Sea Mediterranean Corridor, which had included for the first time in history the UK into an EU based transport project,” he said.

“Of course some conditions of co-finance will change for the UK, not for Ireland. But this is a good opportunity to reconsider some fundamental questions, including the corridor alignment for the Irish territory and I would be very much in favour of extending the scope of the corridor in Ireland. This depends on the approval of all the EU member states and institutions but we can take some initial steps in that direction,” added the professor.

Hungarian native Mr Balázs also said that he is “impressed” by developments at the port. “I can see since my first visit here more than two years ago the progress, and I am convinced that Shannon Foynes has obvious opportunities,” he said.

“One is the deep water access, which is a privilege for a seaport to have. The deep water is important because of the growing size of ships. Shannon has a natural advantage, because many other ports within the corridor I am in charge of are investing big amounts in deepening their waters. Shannon has it natural, so it has to be very pleased with that.

“Another advantage for Shannon is the very high market share of this port in Ireland. A third advantage is the long term strategy of the port as it has concrete plans out to 2041.  This is an excellent idea to get political support and the confidence from business circles and, of course, co-financing from the European Union.”

Two years ago, the port company successfully applied for a €3m grant from the ‘North Med’ Corridor for two projects - €2.2m for the East Jetty Infill Programme at Foynes Port and a further €800,000 for a feasibility study for the regeneration of the rail link between Limerick and the port.  

It is now applying for funding under the 2017 fund, Blended Call, to join existing jetties at Foynes, infill an area behind these jetties and also develop 90 acres of lands for ancillary port storage and port-related activities, at a total cost of €25m.