Over-reliance on Dublin Port 'risks supply security issues'
THE "overdependence" on Dublin Port for trade traffic raises significant supply security issues in the context of Brexit, the Irish Academy of Engineering has argued.
Dublin Port's share of Ireland's roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) traffic has increased from just over 55pc in 1987 to almost 90pc in 2015, a report by the all-island body noted.
At the same time Dublin's share of Ireland's Load-on Load-Off (Lo-Lo) traffic increased from almost 55pc in 1987 to 72.5pc in 2015, the acadmey said. The report argued that the Government's policy regarding port development appears "wholly unsuited to the problems posed by Brexit".
"Up to 500,000 unitised freight movements each year could potentially be re-routed from Dublin to south coast ports by 2020 or soon thereafter," the report concludes
"Were this to happen it would reduce Dublin's share of unitised freight to over 50pc, the level obtaining in the 1980s and a level consistent with the Greater Dublin Area's share of the population."
The report said this would require a significant change in inland distribution and logistics chains, which it said are now concentrated in the Dublin area. But Dublin Port Company chief exective Eamonn O'Reilly questioned the analysis in the report.
"The 1980s was a time when this port was a basket case with dock labour problems and underinvestment. That's why the market share was low."
He also said that even if the capacity of other ports was enhanced, which he said would be welcome, that would not necessarily lead to redistribution.
"You can do all of that, and the distribution might still be the same. That's the key point. The trade that comes to Dublin is coming to Dublin because that is where it makes most sense for it to come."
Except for fuels, ores, grain, animal feed and transport equipment, the vast bulk of Ireland's goods trade is carried in trucks, the report states, on Ro-Ro ferries or in containers, on Lo-Lo vessels.
With just over a year to go until Brexit, the future shape of the trading relationship between the UK and EU remains unknown.
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Businesses have been urged to prepare for the worst, in the event that tariffs are imposed on cross-border goods. Concerns have also been raised over whether Irish hauliers will have access to the UK landbridge, to transport goods from here to mainland Europe.
The report states that the Brexit problem is made more difficult by the fact that almost 85pc of Ireland's unitised trade now passes through Dublin Port.
In contrast, it states, no port in the UK handles over 20pc of such traffic.
"This adds to traffic congestion on the M50 and its approaches and the considerable employment created in the supply-chain management, transport and logistics sectors in the Greater Dublin Area adds to housing demand and unbalanced regional development.
"It also raises significant issues as to supply security."
Figures released by Dublin Port last month revealed cargo volumes through the port hit record levels for the third successive year, with growth of 4.3pc to reach 36.4m gross tonnes in 2017. The report states that enlarging the capacity of Ireland's south coast ports, particularly Ringaskiddy, would improve supply security and direct access to the continent.
This, it argues, would require new investment including completion of the Atlantic Cities Motorway Route linking Galway - Limerick - Cork - Ringaskiddy. It estimates this would require an investment of up to €1.8bn.
The report stated that EU or European Investment Bank funding may be available.