A snapshot of Ireland right now sees a country marked by strong growth, falling public debt and unemployment, low inflation and corporate taxation and a highly-skilled tech workforce. Consequently, it continues to appeal as a European base for US multinationals like Google, Facebook, Accenture, Amazon and Airbnb, all of which call Dublin home, such that Dublin Port has come to be known as ‘silicon docks’.
It is a state of affairs set to be even more significant after Brexit, when Ireland will come to represent the EU’s largest English-speaking member and when Dublin hopes to see other companies and the human capital that comes with them, relocate from London.
All the signs point to growth continuing for many years.
After initially struggling after the global financial crash of 2008, Ireland’s hugely impressive recent economic figures ensure the Celtic Phoenix constitutes one of the premium global foreign direct investment opportunities for 2018.
Dublin Port’s figures, meanwhile, can be seen as an accurate barometer of the wider region and country’s fortunes. These have seen trade volumes up 30% in the last five years and growth of 4.2% in the first nine months of 2017 alone. Meanwhile a new service to Zeebrugge and Rotterdam in continental Europe sees the port playing regular host to CLdN’s MV Celine, the largest Ro-Ro ship ever to call there, so providing additional capacity and flexibility. Dublin Port is thinking big, just like Ireland.
What’s notable about these growth figures is that they not only show significant year-on-year growth, but the port to be in rude health across the board. For example, Ro-Ro services between Ireland and Britain grew to 6.2%, while Lo-Lo activity saw an uplift of some 4.1% across the first three quarters of 2017. Ferry tourism passenger volumes over the same period grew strongly by 2.4% to 1.5 million, while cruise tourism also shows a marked upward trajectory. So struck, in fact, have Celebrity Cruises been by Dublin’s fortunes, they have decided to make it their home port for the early summer season in 2018, an investment estimated to be worth some €6m to the region in terms of knock-on impact. Beyond this, both Celebrity and Princess Cruises have committed to homeporting in 2019.
The Dublin Port Masterplan is an adaptable and flexible initiative.
All the signs point to growth continuing for many years, such that a case for further increasing the capacity of the port has had to be made. This proposed additional development is set to add to ongoing work on the port’s first major Masterplan project: the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR), which is allowing bigger container and cruise ships to use the facility.
The revised proposal amounts to a quest to connect and bring all dormant port land assets into use, with the first step being construction of a bridge to port lands on the Poolbeg Peninsula. Meanwhile, an ‘inland port’ project on 44 hectares of port-owned land near the airport is also currently underway.
The vision comes under the umbrella of the wider Masterplan running to 2040, work around which is being facilitated, in part, by the granting of €100m of long-term debt finance by the European Investment Bank, convinced as they have been, of the merits of the initiative. This echoes political recognition from within Ireland itself as to the importance for the country of increased port capacity in Dublin. No surprise, perhaps, when one considers Dublin Port accounts for some 50% of the merchandise trade into and out of the country.
Once the second phase receives the green light, it will bring clarity and certainty to all stakeholders. Dublin Port Company, however, recognises this is no fait accompli, but rather, is working with residents and others to get the best solution for everyone.
(It is) a port of increasing global renown and the gateway to Western Europe.
Dublin Port is operated, managed and controlled by the state-owned Dublin Port Company, which is overseeing the fulfilment of the Masterplan. Its success to date – whether around the unitised cargo, cruise liner and ferry spaces, or in respect of its comprehensive liquid bulk, dry bulk, oil bunkering and break bulk facilities – has been built upon astute planning, the public and private sectors working in concert and a strategy that sees all stakeholders involved at every stage, with a view to securing buy-in across the board.
The Dublin Port Masterplan is an adaptable and flexible initiative that has factored in the needs of the various stakeholders. Through ongoing and robust consultation, the Port has aimed to reassure and instil confidence in respect of its credentials, prospects and role in delivering benefits to both the immediate surrounding region and further afield.
The Port’s force for good qualities are further evidenced through its commitment to the World Ports Initiative, which shines a light on the pivotal role ports have to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, given that they are key interfaces along the global supply chain. The message Dublin has signed up to is that there is nothing inconsistent between being a thriving transportation and economic centre and at the same time, a standard bearer for sustainability.
The city of Dublin and its residents also stand to benefit from developments around the Masterplan, since it will connect them once again with their port, a fact not lost on Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar at the recent opening of Dublin Port Centre, which he described as beginning the act of realigning the port with the city. As he put it, “While Dublin Port’s key focus is on its infrastructural development and the import and export needs of the Irish economy…this new project will enhance port-city integration to the benefit of city dwellers and visitors”.
Moreover, though cognisant of the unsettling nature of Brexit, Dublin Port Authority is cautiously optimistic that the opportunities will outweigh the challenges and that the Masterplan is ‘Brexit-proof’. As a port of increasing global renown and the gateway to Western Europe, it is sure to prove those who would argue otherwise, wrong.
There is also ever-increasing investor interest from France, Germany, China and Hong Kong, drawn by a supportive Irish government and a business-friendly tax landscape, while the pharmaceutical, banking and insurance industries have been particularly smitten with Ireland. Cumulatively, this has worked to ensure Ireland now leads from the front as Europe’s fastest growing economy. As it turns out, Irish companies have already been paying significantly more attention to forging trading links beyond the traditional UK market in those years since the global financial crisis. Their success on this front has helped to enhance Dublin’s global profile and spells good news for Dublin Port’s prospects post-Brexit.