Scrap €200m port expansion plans, An Taisce head urges

Environmental watchdog An Taisce has questioned the wisdom of going ahead with a planned €200 million redevelopment of Galway Harbour which they claim may only lead to a few extra cruise liners visiting the city each year.

Local Chairman Derrick Hambleton pointed out that the facility is within less than 60 miles of the existing deepwater port at Foynes, which already handles international trade worth €6 billion per annum and where Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar launched a ‘Vision 2041’ master plan just last month.

With the first phase of the Galway redevelopment set to cost €50 million, Mr Hambleton questioned the need for a deepwater facility so near to the existing one at Foynes.

“Why are we in Galway still talking about spending €50m, let alone the €200m needed to develop a new port that is less than 60 miles from Limerick and will shortly be connected to it, and through to the port of Foynes, by the soon to be completed N18 motorway?” he asked.

He pointed out that Minister Varadkar, upon taking office two years ago, had discussed turning some of the smaller ports around the country into harbours for fishing and water sports, or would be “mothballed” for a period.

“The business has changed,” said Minister Varadkar at the time. “It’s increasingly about big ships, really big ships, going in and out of deep water ports – not smaller ships going in and out of tidal ports. And that’s what really changed. That’s the way business is going.”

At the time, those comments were understood to have left a threat hanging over six ports across the State, including Galway Harbour.

“There’s some of these ports now are getting one ship a week,” he said. “They’ve got a CEO on €100,000, a harbour master, staff, and there’s one ship coming in a week. And that’s not going to change when the economy recovers.”

Describing Minister Varadkar’s comments as “perfectly sensible”, Mr Hambleton asked what kind of a spatial planning strategy Ireland had if Galway was to develop a deep water port barely 60 miles from Foynes.

He questioned the need for a deep water facility after reading comments in the Galway City Tribune, by former Statoil Director Stein Bredal, that the city could become a service hub for oil and gas fields off the West coast.

“If, as Mr Bredal has already told us, oil company executives need to be able to fly into an airport which is within 40 minutes driving distance of a port, then Shannon Airport fits that description most surely,” said Mr Hambleton. Source: