Thursday 18 July 2019

The right moves: It's full steam ahead at Dublin Port with plans to enhance links to city

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

The new Head of Property at Dublin Port is chartered surveyor Cormac Kennedy, who brings experience with CBRE, JLL, Tesco and Eason, to one of the most important property roles in the country. I met him to hear about the Dublin Port Company's plans for this key piece of national infrastructure.

The Port Company headquarters must have one of the most dynamic views in the country - overlooking water, ships arriving and leaving, and cranes towering over quaysides buzzing with activity. The estate is massive, comprising 300 hectares - 256 of which are on the north and south quays, with a further 44 hectares at the Airport Logistics Port.

Business at the port is booming. Dublin handles 47pc of all port traffic in the Republic and 80pc of all container traffic. This represents 36 million tonnes of cargo, an increase of 30pc since 2012. Dublin Port's masterplan sees that reaching a capacity of 77 million tonnes by 2040. Some 3,000 people work in the port.

Kennedy explained that the port's plans to expand eastwards by reclaiming more land have been abandoned. The strategy for expansion now is to ensure that port land is only used by 'core port users', that is, tenants who are importing and exporting. Thus, the land at Dublin Airport was bought three years ago to relocate 'non-core port users'. This includes uses such as empty container storage and hauliers' yards.

The Port Company has applied for planning permission for sheds and yards on part of the airport lands - now known as the Dublin Inland Port - and is master planning the remainder. Kennedy hopes to achieve those relocations by negotiation, but ultimately the Port Company has compulsory purchase powers, if necessary.

The ongoing work on Dublin Port's masterplan will see expenditure this year of €132m on projects including the development of new berths in Alexandra Basin. "The ships keep getting bigger and bigger," Kennedy told me. As a measure of the scale of operations, the MV Celine, on arrival carries enough trucks to stretch 8km, end-to-end. Kennedy says Dublin Port needs to spend €100m per annum on redevelopment, in each of the next 10 years.

The growth in the cruise ship business has generated great business for the port and for the city. A record 127 cruise ships docked last year, while over 150 such vessels will arrive this year. On one day this year, the port hosted five cruise ships, with 12,000 passengers disembarking. Celebrity Cruises has made Dublin its home port, providing another boost for tourism, as passengers tend to stay for a day or two in Dublin, at either end of their cruise.

The second phase of the Port masterplan will see the development of a new, unified ferry terminal, on the north-eastern side of the port, so that the three existing ferry operators can operate more efficiently from the one facility.

On the south side, a Dublin City Council Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) is in place for the Poolbeg Peninsula. This provides for residential use on lands that include the former Irish Glass Bottle (IGB) site. Dublin Port Company will be retaining its port use adjoining that, and a park will separate the two zones.

Access to the South Docks is a challenge for the Port and they are planning a new port access route and bridge, running parallel to the East Link bridge, to connect both sides of the port and take traffic off the East Link.

Another strategy, Kennedy tells me, is the opening up of the port to the city. This involves an ongoing process of removing boundaries and more integration with the community, to include projects such as the Diving Bell museum on Sir John Rogersons Quay.

Construction of a new 4km cycle route, running along the northern boundary of the port and into the proposed new ferry terminal, will begin next year.

Historically, the Port Company supplements its property team with external consultants and Lisney recently won that instruction, following a tender process.

As with many European ports, Dublin Port is located close to the city centre and it is frequently suggested that the port should be moved out of Dublin, with a new port developed at Bremore, near Balbriggan in north county Dublin.

Kennedy is sceptical about that, pointing out that if Apple couldn't get planning permission to build a data centre, obtaining permission for a massive new port would be very difficult. It would also cost between €3bn and €5bn, he said, before concluding: "Dublin Port is efficient, profitable, and in the right place for its customers."

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