A MAJOR €126m redevelopment of Galway Harbour, which would open up trade and tourism routes to the West, will create up to 800 new jobs, according to developers.
The planning application for the venture, which is the first in the country to use the 'IROPI' route, must be green-lighted by Europe because it is being built into a designated European habitat.
The IROPI clause in contained in the EU Habitats Directive and states that projects which may have a negative environmental impact may still proceed for reasons of 'Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest'.
Eamon Bradshaw, CEO of Galway Harbour Company, said they were confident the project would be given the green light because it had been open about the impact it will have.
"We are putting up our hands and saying at the very beginning yes we will have an impact on the habitat and we're acknowledging that. And that's what is different from other planning applications," he said.
Mr Bradshaw said the group had liaised closely with European Commission officials on the plans and also brought people from Hull Port, which has previously gone through the process, to Galway to examine the site.
If the plans are green-lighted the Galway Harbour Company must put forward a compensatory habitat. A number of alternative sites and separate compensatory measures are now being looked at.
The plans for a 27-hectare extension include a 216-berth marina, a 12-metre deep commercial quay, deep sea berthing suitable for cruise liners and a nautical centre.
A cruise and coach terminal will also be included.
If given the green light, the expansion project will be carried out in four stages, with construction on the first stage due to begin next year at a cost of €52m.
The planning application will go live on January 20, with a final decision expected in around six months.