Thursday, 8 February 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
44. Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources when he will produce his proposals for radical change of port structures; his proposals to reduce congestion at Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3345/01]
Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): As provided for in the Harbours Act, 1996, my Department has commissioned a statutory audit of the performance of the commercial State port companies which were corporatised in 1997 and afforded new corporate structures with commercial mandates, freedoms and accountabilities. Once the results of this audit, being carried out by independent expert consultants, are to hand I have asked my Department to commence the assessment, with outside expert assistance, of the case for change. Specifically, I have asked that we assess whether conditions – or the need – exist in Ireland to warrant change from our current operational/ management model for port companies.
I want this study to be objective, open minded and based on an assessment of best practice models abroad and their relevance in an Irish context. I want the process to be inclusive with all stakeholders consulted and involved. I expect and envisage that the process will be well completed, and any new directions mapped out, by the end of this year.
My accountability as Minister and shareholder is to ensure that high standards are enforced, good structures, procedures and services are enhanced and that we have a port industry second to none. Whether this requires that we continue as we are or whether change is needed remains to be seen. The Deputy will agree that given the success of our economy we must in terms of sustainable transport mobility continually examine how our ports can be developed strategically  whilst also seeking, where possible, to remove heavy freight traffic from our towns and cities.
I recently outlined my plans for an expert task force to examine transport logistics relating to ports which will consider: transferring freight from road to rail including the development of rail-head facilities at existing ports and establish realistic targets to be achieved; transportation of freight by rail at night and during off-peak hours; opportunities for traffic diversion including by rail, by pipeline, including relocation of oil tank farms and to other less congested ports outside Dublin; examine the prospects of increasing the volume of port traffic which is transported by rail and establish realistic targets to be achieved; identify cost effective options for the movement of traffic through Dublin and identify other imaginative proposals for transporting goods to and from ports. The composition of the group is currently being finalised and I intend to make a formal announcement in this regard shortly. The task force will have a tight six month time frame to finalise its report to me.
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