Rosslare Europort will undergo a €30m transformation over the next five years and is the ideal port to alleviate traffic congestion and lessen pollution in Dublin, according to manager Glenn Carr.
Mr Carr said there are 100 acres of land waiting to be developed within a five kilometre radius of the port, an unrivalled landbank in the country, adding that it makes perfect sense for Dublin Port ships and shipping activity to be moved to Rosslare. Planning permission to develop a new access road and entrance has been submitted, with works due to commence this winter - and combined with major plans by the OPW to develop a customs unit at the port - Rosslare Europort is able to take over 20 per cent of activity from Dublin in the coming years.
Mr Carr said: 'Both outside Dublin Port on the M50 and inside, there is congestion. The current situation is not the norm. The norm prior to Covid saw lorries delayed outside the port and even in the port tunnel. With Brexit approaching we do believe that Rosslare has a very strong role to play as geographically it is the closest port to mainland Europe. Companies can save seven hours, (three and a half hours each way) on the Irish Sea on direct services going to Europe.'
He said the Enniscorthy Bypass has saved hauliers 25 minutes on their journey, adding that the opening of the New Ross Bypass has also strengthened the case for the port. For hauliers travelling to distribution centres along the outer M50 in Dublin, Rosslare is now a lot easier to get to. 'The time you would lose on the ship, you'd gain on the road. The New Ross Bypass provides improved connectivity to Cork, Waterford and Limerick, which are main arteries that a lot of product is moved to. We have seen that with the new Brittany Ferries service, which moved here from Cork. The biggest factor [behind the move] was that the industry wanted the route in Rosslare because it was easier and quicker to get to so there is already evidence that Rosslare is a real alternative to Dublin.'
Presently around 84 per cent of roll-on, roll-off shipping activity occurs in Dublin Port, the remaining 16 per cent falling to Rosslare.
For Mr Carr, there is no other port in Ireland better suited to roll-on, roll-off. because of the better access in and out of the port.
The prospect of a harder Brexit than first anticipated further necessitates the development of the Co Wexford port, he said. 'With Brexit it's more likely that we are going to see a shift to a harder Brexit. The days of huge traffic going from Dublin Port through Hollyhead may no longer be viable. Some of that traffic - as much as a third - will not go via the landbridge. Having to go through Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke and driving on through England - a country with more stops and checks holding them up won't be as attractive. 150,000 trucks make that journey so I see up to one third of those going from Rosslare. At the moment the landbridge is quicker but with all the queuing, direct sailing [from Rosslare] has the opportunity to be more competitive.'
Presently the only direct sailing to the major European port of Zeebrugge is out of Dublin Port, but the haulage industry wants a route from Rosslare onto mainland Europe, either through Dunkirk or Zeebrugge. 'We are exploring these at the moment with other operators. From the haulier's perspective the availability of land is crucial. There is no land in Dublin so if you are a haulier where you used to park your trailer near Dublin Port that land has been developed for apartments or housing. In Dublin Port they don't have the facilities anymore to leave your truck there so hauliers are having to park their trucks further out and are paying a high premium to leave them there. Rosslare is much better value and there is 100 acres of land that can be developed in the Kilrane area. No other port in the country has that type of land bank available so we have the potential to develop that the support growth here in Rosslare.'
€30m is being spent on the port in the next three to five years. 'This will increase land availability for trailers and storage and bulk in port. We are also looking at offshore wind energy so we are confident we can accommodate additional ships.'
Money is being spent to lengthen the berths for longer ships. 'There are a number of factors coming together now: the way we are expanding and Dublin Port are not in a position to handle elements of trade they were used to. Cruise ships docking at the port are reduced. Heavy bulk has moved out of Dublin. Roll-on, roll-off has grown in Dublin but it has led to congestion with trucks trying to get in and out of Dublin on the M50. A lot of distribution centres have been built close to Dublin Port and they were built directly related to the trade. It's the same in the UK where a huge amount of the distribution hubs are at Liverpool and Holyhead and the biggest consumers per capita are in the Dublin region.'
The improved road network into Co Wexford means Wexford is an outreach of Dublin, Mr Carr said. With the difference in travel times between both Dublin Port and Rosslare Europort to distribution centres in County Dublin lessening, Rosslare becomes a more realistic option, he adds. 'You need to be in the supply chain space. Manufacturing companies want things moves as quickly, efficiently and at the best value possible. Before they would always have gone through Dublin or Holyhead. That is now being challenged. We can't extend the M50 or widen it and by allowing Dublin Port to grow it's only solving one part - if you don't allow infrastructure outside to grow. We have capacity inside and outside of the port. We are in a strong position and could certainly take 20 per cent of Dublin Port's business. Once you have that volume into the port and our revenues increase then we can be even more ambitious.'
He said the increased revenue stream would enable the port to borrow more for further expansion. 'The government role is to ensure the infrastructure outside the port is supported. The shipping lines will go where the market wants them to go so we need to have the infrastructure and facilities here to attract the market. On direct services we are definitely seeing a requirement and the players in the market say it would make absolute sense to develop services in Rosslare. We have four services daily yo the UK so if a haulier misses a ship at night they have to wait until the next day, or in the morning, they have to wait till the afternoon. Dublin Port have 12 sailings to the UK so the wait time is much less. If you have a better service out of Rosslare it gives hauliers more choice. We are doing our piece by investing in the port. I would like to see the Oilgate section of the motorway completed. The Enniscorthy section has been a game changer already.'
Last year Rosslare Europort was designated a border inspection post. Dublin Port is the only other such port in the Republic. 'Now that Rosslare has it and it is being built by the OPW and the Department of Agriculture on the old Renault site, they have planning to build a permanent facility over the next couple of years so we now can offer traffic coming in for a border inspection which is another alternative to Dublin.'