Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Shannon Estuary Development.

Thursday, 21 May 1992

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 420 No. 1

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[94]

  7.  Mr. Byrne  Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne   asked the Minister for the Marine  Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods   if, in regard to the comments made by the Taoiseach during his visit to the IMI conference in Killarney, he will outline the plans the Government have for the development of the Shannon Estuary as a deep sea port facility linking Europe and the US, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  15.  Mr. Collins  Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins   asked the Minister for the Marine  Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods   if he will elaborate on a statement by the Taoiseach recently in Killarney, County Kerry, on the possible development of an international sea base in the Shannon Estuary.

  33.  Mr. Spring  Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring   asked the Minister for the Marine  Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods   if he will elaborate on the statement made by the Taoiseach at the IMI conference in Killarney in relation to the development of the Shannon region.

  34.  Mrs. Taylor-Quinn  Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn   asked the Minister for the Marine  Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods   if he will elaborate on the comments by the Taoiseach relating to the setting up of a Europort on the Shannon Estuary at the IMI conference in Killarney, County Kerry.

  39.  Mr. Deenihan  Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan   asked the Minister for the Marine  Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods   if he will confirm whether it is the Government's intention to set up a transhipment port in the Shannon Estuary following the recent statement by the Taoiseach at the IMI conference in Killarney, County Kerry.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 15, 33, 34 and 39 together.

The question of developing transhipment facilities in the Shannon Estuary is being examined at present by my Department, in consultation with An Taoiseach's Department, other Departments and relevant State agencies.

Initially this examination will consist of an assessment of facilities available in the estuary. The potential market for transhipped goods, by mode and destination, will also be examined.

I would expect that it will take some weeks to complete this initial review of the transhipment question.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  In relation to the [95] transhipment element of this issue, could the Minister say what consideration is being given to this proposal? Is it proposed to tranship by smaller vessels into Europe or by carriers across land? Has consideration been given to the provision of Structural Funds for either method of transportation?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Both aspects will be considered and will form part of the investigation.

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  Does the Minister know that this matter arose by way of a major announcement by the Taoiseach in response to a proposal of Dr. Tony O'Ryan concerning an air bridge in which the Taoiseach said he had a proposal for a deep water transhipment facility? Is the Minister saying that the Taoiseach was speaking off the top of his head and that there is no specific project, that this idea was merely something plucked out of the air? What is the solid blueprint? Second, does the Minister consider that a one channel estuary authority would be the best vehicle to oversee this development or does he prefer the existing system, under which there is a multiplicity of port authorities in the Shannon Estuary?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  In so far as Structural Funds may be available, the question of the organisational arrangement of the area generally would come up. That is one matter that will have to be examined.

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  Does the Minister have an opinion?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The issue of an air bridge versus a sea bridge has been raised. Of course, several sea bridges to Europe are being considered for access to Europe. I remind the Deputy that 97 per cent in volume of all our exports go by sea; it is therefore easy to recognise the importance of a sea bridge to Ireland. The developments taking place internationally, particularly given the changes in the GATT, will result in much increased global trade. This project is [96] related to the expected increase in global trade. I assure the Deputy that the concept is being examined thoroughly.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I wish to ask the Minister about the examination of facilities to which he referred. He said the examination would be completed in a matter of weeks. When did that examination begin? In view of the Taoiseach's indication that the facility would be capable of accommodating vessels of 300,000 tonnes, has the examination found that the facility will be able to accommodate vessels of that size? In which of the existing ports in the Shannon Estuary will it be possible to accommodate those vessels, or is it intended to establish a new port? The Taoiseach referred to the facility being integrated with Shannon Airport and could the Minister give any indication as to whether the development might be some kind of compensatory promise in anticipation of a decision on the Shannon stop-over?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy is injecting new matter.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  This matter has been under consideration for some time. The Deputy asked about ships of 300,000 tonnes. The position is that the maximum size of vessel that can enter Moneypoint is 150,000 tonnes to 170,000 tonnes, drawing 17 to 18 metres of water. The marine facility at Moneypoint has a depth of 25 metres alongside at low water and is designed for vessels of 250,000 tonnes — the inner marine facility can accommodate a vessel of 250,000 tonnes. The development of the deep water navigation channel could allow a vessel of 250,000 tonnes to enter there, for example.

Mr. G. O'Sullivan: Information on Gerry O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gerry O'Sullivan  Would the Minister agree that the creation of a new transhipment port, as envisaged in the Taoiseach's announcement, would be a waste of valuable finance in that it would cost millions of pounds and would not be economically viable for the reason that transhipment from the United States to [97] this country or to Europe would be better off going through Rotterdam or through existing ports such as Cork, Waterford or Rosslare on the south coast? Will the Minister agree it would be ridiculous to create a new port which would cost this country, and the EC millions of pounds?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Even in the early stages, the ability to bring in ships of that size could result in substantial indirect savings to the ESB at Moneypoint. If the navigational channel was further deepened it would be able to accommodate ships of up to 400,000 tonnes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am anxious to facilitate Deputies and I am also concerned about the lack of progress at Question Time today. I ask Deputies to be brief and help me to expedite matters and dispose of as many questions as we can.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Is the Minister familiar with the details of the statement by the Taoiseach in Killarney, in which he promised the development of a Europort similar in capability to that of Rotterdam? In view of that, will the Minister indicate the extent of the studies, particularly in relation to the feasibility study, on the transportation economics of the proposition? What consultation took place between the Department and shipping companies who could be potential users?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I did ask for brevity.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Finally, I ask the Minister whether he is now having to cobble together a response to a question in the House resulting from an off the cuff remark by the Taoiseach in Killarney, in which he tried to hold out a laurel of compensation to the people of the midwest because of the Government's indecisiveness over the Shannon Airport issue?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy is raising many issues.

[98]Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Apart from the use of that facility to increase the cost-effectiveness of shipments to Ireland, there is the possibility of establishing a port at least as good and probably better from the point of view of depth and suitability for the major vessels transporting grain, ore, oil and coal in particular. The project is being examined.

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  Will the Minister not acknowledge that the Shannon Estuary port is a client-based port for Aughinish Alumina and provides deep water facilities for the ESB at Moneypoint? Will he agree that in no way is it suitable for the type of distribution centre about which the Taoiseach spoke and that it would be much more realistic to have a feasibility rather than a project study undertaken. In that regard would the Minister not acknowledge that the Taoiseach was talking a load of rubbish?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Of course the feasibility study will form part of the study at present in progress. I would not be quite so anxious to downgrade such a major port on the edge of Europe as the Deputy seems to be——

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  I was downgrading the Taoiseach, who was bluffing and blustering.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  After all, it is a major facility——

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  The Taoiseach was daydreaming and the Minister knows it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy has asked some questions. He should allow the Minister to reply.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  It is a major facility which is being examined in detail at present. The feasibility is being examined——

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  The Taoiseach was daydreaming and the Minister knows it.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  It has been examined for the past 20 years.

[99]Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Obviously, in the first instance it will be beneficial to clients locally and could serve as a transhipment point for shipment on into Europe.

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  The Taoiseach was bluffing and the Minister knows it.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  As somebody who is representative of one of the harbour boards in the Foynes Estuary, I can talk with competence about the Shannon Estuary. Is the Minister aware that the Taoiseach's announcement was greeted with a certain amount of incredulity in the area? So far as the research SFADCo had been undertaking for some time in regard to industry and so on for the Shannon Estuary is concerned, can the Minister say to what degree SFADCo were consulted in relation to this project? Is the Minister also aware that in regard to the transhipment idea a project was proposed recently for the estuary which was not proceeded with?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  As I said at the outset, consultation is taking place between all the relevant Departments and State agencies, including SFADCo.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Would the Minister give us a precise answer as to when the examination commenced? Or will he confirm that the examination did not commence until after the Taoiseach's announcement?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I did answer the Deputy earlier and said that this was a project which had been under consideration for some time.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  For the past 20 years.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  When did the Minister's Department carry out their examination?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Many different aspects were examined over a considerable period. The question is when will it become feasible——

[100]Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  That is the way Knock Airport was built.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  ——and in that respect detailed studies are at present being undertaken.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  We are not fools.

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  The Minister's loyalty is admirable.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I understand the Deputies were not able to get together on the question of the port at Shannon.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Given its history, it was an easy thing on which to give a promise.


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