Operations at investment-hungry Rosslare Port to be privatised
Iarnród Éireann is planning to outsource operations at the country's second-busiest port at Rosslare in Co Wexford, the Irish Independent has learned.
The railway company has sought expressions of interest from across Europe for a private company to operate the facility, which is in need of major investment.
Rosslare recorded a profit of €2.1m in 2013 on a turnover of €9.6m. However, with ships becoming larger, the port will have to invest in new berths which could cost as much as €60m.
Iarnród Éireann intends to retain ownership but outsource operations to a private sector partner which will pay an annual fee to the company.
This model is used across Europe, and is in place in Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg, a spokesman said.
The port currently employs 73, and preliminary discussions have taken place with staff.
"Every euro of surplus in the last two decades has been reinvested in the port," the spokesman said.
"It has always been profitable, even through the recession, but if you were to deepen the berth it would cost in the region of €40m. A new berth would cost more than €60m.
"They (a private operator) would be in a position to develop the business, which under our own funding position we cannot. It would require a commitment to invest, and the purpose is to strengthen its strategic role."
Rosslare is considered a port of national significance and is a key entry point to the country for goods and passengers.
In 2013, 1,683 ships arrived, and it handled 1,940 tonnes of freight, making it the second-busiest port in the country after Dublin.
The move follows a study by Indecon Consultants for the Department of Transport which examined strategic options for the future of Europort Rosslare, as it is officially titled, to help maximise its potential and address future investment requirements. It recommended that Europort remain in the ownership of Iarnród Éireann, but with a long-term concession with a third party.
Rosslare is one of five ports considered of national significance. Tier One ports include Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes, with Rosslare and Waterford considered Tier Two.
The other main ports of Galway, Dun Laoghaire, Drogheda, New Ross and Wicklow are considered of regional significance.
Rosslare recorded growth of 2pc in 2014, and is experiencing growth in freight traffic of 4pc in the year to date.
Served by Stena Line and Irish Ferries, it is the nearest seaport to the continental mainland.
The Government's National Ports Policy, published in 2013, noted that Rosslare had a "clear demonstrable potential" to handle higher volumes of traffic and had the transport links to serve a wider, national marketplace beyond the immediate region.