Dublin Port growth will accelerate without expansion into the Bay
Dublin Port will expand at a faster than expected pace over the next 20 years as population growth boosts volumes passing through the country's main goods gateway, the semi-state company behind the port said.
However, growth will have to be accommodated without a physical expansion beyond the existing docks - ruling out reclamation or a major move.
In a revised masterplan published yesterday, Dublin Port Company said Ireland's biggest port - now needs to expand based on an assumption of 3.3pc annual growth in volumes between 2010 and 2040. That's higher than the 2.5pc annual growth pencilled in back in 2012.
"The past and projected growth to 2040 is in large part due to the growth in the country's population," the revised masterplan noted.
Dublin Port Company said that the annual volume of goods through the gateway is expected to rise to 77.2 million gross tonnes in 2040, from 2.9 million tonnes in 1950.
The current masterplan was first published in 2012. Since then, two major elements of the plan have got underway. They are the €277m Alexandra Basin Redevelopment scheme and the development in a so-called "inland port" on a 44-hectare site near Dublin Airport.
The Alexandra project, set to be completed by 2021, will improve the port's capacity for large ships by deepening and lengthening three kilometres of the port's seven kilometres of berths.
Dublin Port Company expects to invest €1bn in capital over the next decade.
CEO Eamonn O'Reilly, pictured, said that the masterplan continues to be informed by extensive public and stakeholder consultation. He added that the updated masterplan takes account of "strong economic growth and significant policy changes in recent years".
Dublin Port Company had originally envisaged expanding eastwards into Dublin Bay. But that controversial element of the masterplan was abandoned by the semi-state company last year, having been refused permission seven years earlier to reclaim 21 hectares of the bay.
"Given the high growth rates projected and the need to cater for this growth without further expansion into Dublin Bay, Dublin Port Company will only bring forward development projects which are consistent with the principles of proper planning and sustainable development and which can be objectively demonstrated not to adversely affect the environment in all its facets," it noted yesterday.
It added that the "great unknown" in terms of planning for infrastructure development is the level of future growth.
"If the projected 27-fold increase in port volumes over in the 90 years to 2040 were to repeat itself thereafter, then port volumes would rise to an implausible two billion gross tonnes," it noted. "Our development plans are framed against the inevitability that there will, at some point, be a decoupling of port volume growth from economic growth."
It added: "It is implausible that there would be another 27-fold increase over the 90 years from 2040 to 2130. Therefore, Dublin Port Company believes that growth will slow down at some point in the future."
Last year, volumes passing through Dublin Port rose 4.3pc to a new record of 36.4m gross tonnes. Volumes through the port are up 30.1pc since 2013. Last year imports rose 3.9pc to 21.5m gross tonnes, and exports were 4.9pc higher at 14.9m tonnes. Containers and freight trailers account for 83pc of all cargo transiting the port.
Other elements of the masterplan include improved facilities for cruise ships to develop that business, and also a single terminal for use by all of its ferry operators. The port's role as petroleum storage facility is also expected to diminish as climate change policies take effect.