THE company behind Limerick Docks and the port at Foynes has reported strong growth figures for 2016.
Shannon Foynes Port Company said its key ports at Limerick and Foynes saw growth of 11.4% in year on year tonnages.
For the second successive year, the two largest directly managed SFPC ports have now delivered 10% plus growth, significantly ahead of national and international standards, the company said.
Overall tonnages delivered across the company’s activities last year were at just over 11m - increases that were largely driven by strong performing sectors such as construction, oil distribution, agri and renewables.
The positive growth reflects a very significant resurgence at the company over the past five years.
SFPC CEO Patrick Keating said the growth levels were "in excess of the upper end scenarios" envisaged in the company’s Vision 2041 Masterplan published in 2014.
The CEO said that the numbers also reinforced the growing need for the upgrade of Limerick to Foynes road network, without which the company’s ability to maintain growth and help drive the regional economy would be hindered.
"The tonnages at Limerick Docks are particularly impressive as our tonnages last year were unprecedented and illustrate again the value and importance of Limerick Docks as a viable port not just for SFPC but for the region," he said.
"Exports from Limerick docks more than tripled imports in 2016 so that shows just how much an asset it is for business in Limerick and the wider region.
"We have a long term plan for our property in the Limerick Docklands area but this will primarily be centred on maximising the docks as working port and improving connectivity thereto.
"We have just completed a Limerick Docklands Framework Strategy that maps out the future requirements for the working port at Limerick, as well as plans to reinstate historical buildings such as Bannatyne Mills over time. This Strategy will be launched shortly and we are confident it will have a very positive economic and visual impact on the Dock Road area based on our stakeholder consultations."
The company completed a €12m expansion of the Foynes port last year and also recently acquired a further 90 acres for storage and port development purposes to facilitate further growth, part of a €50m capital investment programme.
Some of the work is part-funded by the the North Sea Mediterranean Core Network Corridor, with European coordinator Professor Péter Balázs visiting recently to get an update on the company’s programme of investment.
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.