Irish port to be European shipping hub after Brexit
US customs officials will give pre-clearance to freight crossing Atlantic from Limerick town
The Port of Foynes is to become Europe's gateway to the US under a radical new Government initiative aimed at capitalising on Britain's decision to leave the EU.
The move would see the port in Limerick developed into a shipping hub to rival Rotterdam Port in Holland, the central destination for European freight companies shipping goods to the US.
Central to the plan is a proposal to base US custom officials in Foynes who could give pre-clearance to cargo ships. It is hoped the redeveloped port would also reduce costs for Irish manufacturers shipping produce to America and Continental Europe, and create thousands of new jobs.
The project is being proposed by Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources, who said there is a "huge opportunity" to develop the port into a hub for shipping in Europe and attract investment for Limerick.
"Rotterdam is becoming hugely congested as the main port of Europe and there is potential to develop on the western seaboard a major port at Foynes that would act as a transit point for freight to and from North America," Mr Naughten told the Sunday Independent. "My suggestion is to do what we have done for passengers and have pre-clearance for large freight out of Foynes into the United States.
"Freight would come into Foynes, get scanned there, get certified and can land in New York and it is the same as an internal shipment," he added.
The Minister said a so-called 'hard Brexit' - as is being proposed by UK Prime Minister Theresa May - will result in EU border checks which will drive up costs for freight companies shipping out of Britain into Europe.
Ireland could become a more attractive destination for companies shipping from outside the EU into Central Europe through Britain.
However, Mr Naughten believes the redeveloped port would also attract business from within Europe. "It's not just from a Brexit point of view, this is an opportunity of attracting industry in from right across Europe that are exporting into the US," he said.
"Our second biggest export destination is the US. The reality is post-Brexit exports into the UK are going to be put under pressure so this is an opportunity to make a new market and make it far more efficient for the export of goods."