Shannon Foynes Port Company warned that delivering key infrastructure projects such as the Limerick to Foynes road was becoming more urgent
SHANNON Foynes Port Company delivered the highest profit before tax in the history of the company last year at €4.3m and paid a dividend of €250,000 to the Exchequer.
It was the third consecutive year of record profits with turnover up by almost 6% to €13.98m, the annual report for 2017 released this Tuesday reveals, with last year’s return up 2.8% on 2016.
2017 also saw cargo volumes surpass the peak levels of the boom, reaching 11.3m tonnes, an increase of 18% since 2014.
But company leaders warned that delivering key infrastructure projects such as the Limerick to Foynes road was becoming more urgent if the company is to reach its full potential as the country’s premier deep-water port.
The 2017 record profits were achieved in a year in which the company, the largest bulk port company in Ireland, also invested over €6.5m in infrastructure improvements and a high capacity mobile crane.
Significantly also for the health of the company, an operating margin of 34.3% was delivered, six times what it was at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom when a 5.5% margin was delivered.
“We are very pleased with our performance in 2017, which was positive across all metrics,” company chief executive Pat Keating said.
“Cargo volumes are a key barometer for port companies and last year we were up by 4% at our general cargo terminals of Limerick and Foynes. This growth reflects the resurgence in the domestic and export economy where, for example, agricultural, petroleum and construction products were particularly strong. In addition, renewable and recyclable related cargoes also performed strongly.”
However, Mr Keating continued, substantial demands on cash flow exist to fund the investment programme of the company’s masterplan, Vision 2041.
“These investments are vital in order to significantly expand our infrastructure in order to keep pace with customer demand,” he said.
“Whilst it is early days in the Vision 2041 plan period, we are very much on track to achieve its growth projections,” company chairman David McGarry said.
But he stressed that a number of key projects must be delivered for the port authority to reach its potential. One of these is the Limerick to Foynes Road Scheme and delivery of this, Mr McGarry said, is becoming more and more urgent.
The reinstatement of the Limerick to Foynes rail line for freight use, likewise, is a key project.
“While there are obvious economic threats arising from Brexit, we believe it also presents opportunity,” Mr McGarry said.
“Brexit is a disruptor and has forced the freight sector, including its policy makers, to review current systems and traffic paths. To this end, we have been very active during 2017 and note that the European Commission, in its CEF mid-term review intend to extend the North Sea Mediterranean Corridor to include SFPC.
“This is a major change and one which should enhance our ability to access future European Funding under the CEF (Connecting Europe Facility) budget.”
Phase 1 of the company’s 2041 investment programme ended in 2016 at a cost of €12m and planning application is in progress for a further €22m investment covering Phases II to IV. These phases will comprise a significant extension to berthing facilities at Foynes, including the development of the recently acquired 38 hectares of land for port activity.