Competition Authority asked to launch review into country's ports
Government considers partnering with private investors to develop new facilities
THE Competition Authority has been asked to review Ireland's ports and look in particular at whether Dublin Port has a dominant position in the market.
With most big ports in state hands the move looks like a move towards some degree of privatisation.
The Government has previously ruled out the sale of strategic ports, but is understood to be considering the potential of partnering with private investors to develop new maritime facilities.
State-owned Dublin Port is the county's biggest, accounting for around 30pc of all shipping traffic.
Half of all traffic through the profitable Dublin terminals comes from the Dublin region, the rest is drawn from across the country.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday that the study by the Competition Authority would examine whether Dublin Port has a dominant economic position.
The country's biggest ports are Dublin, Cork, Shannon-Foynes and Galway and are all state-owned, though each managed by a standalone company.
A spokesman for Dublin Port Company said it ran a competitive port-management model with eight private terminal operators competing for trade.
"Dublin Port Company notes the Competition Authority Review and looks forward to engaging with the authority as it carries out its work," the company said in a statement.
In June, Dublin Port paid a €10m dividend to the Exchequer in respect of its 2011 financial year.
Profits at Dublin Port jumped 36pc last year to €28m from €20.5m in 2010.
It brings the total amount paid by Dublin Port to the State in dividends in the past six years to €47m.
Earlier this year the port launched a 30-year €500m master plan to upgrade facilities in order to handle future capacity.
It is to include a dedicated €30m cruise-ship terminal
The expansion will enable the port to deal with an expected doubling of its throughput to 60 million tonnes by 2040.