Wednesday, 11 March 1992
Seanad Éireann Debate
Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods): This resolution arises from the application from Waterford Harbour Commissioners  that borrowings of up to £10 million over 15 years in connection with the Belview harbour development plan be guaranteed by the State. Waterford harbour is one of Ireland's premier commercial ports. It is one of the key ports on which our commercial harbours policy is based. The principal objectives of this policy in the medium term are (a) to offset the effects of Ireland's peripheral location so that our exporters and importers competitive disadvantages can be maintained; and (b) to ensure that Ireland has sufficient port facilities to meet the anticipated increase in trade expected following the completion of the Single Market.
These objectives are being pursued principally through an investment in commercial ports of approximately £69 million in the years 1989 to 1993. This investment is funded in part by the EC through the Operational Programme on Peripherality. The programme is assisting projects at the key ports of Cork, Dublin, Rosslare and Waterford, and at other important local ports. The Waterford project is the largest single port project in this programme. These measures, when implemented, could have the effect of winning back some of the substantial Republic of Ireland traffic that has moved to Northern Ireland ports.
Waterford harbour handles more than 30 per cent of Ireland's lo/lo — lift-on/lift off — container traffic. Containerised traffic through the port of Waterford has more than doubled in recent years reaching 130,000 TEUs (unit of measurement of container traffic TEU — 20-foot equivalent unit) in 1991 and this throughput is set to increase dramatically in the coming years — throughput in 2005 is estimated at 275,000 TUEs but this cannot be achieved at the present terminal which has a design capacity of 80,000 TUEs, and the number of containers going through at present is 130,000. From that you can see that the existing facilities are under tremendous pressure.
To cater for the projected dramatic  increase in container throughput the Waterford Harbour Commissioners are about to embark on a major lo-lo harbour development plan at Belview, County Kilkenny — four miles down-river from Waterford — at a cost in excess of £20 million. The location is just opposite Cheekpoint. The plan comprises major capital dredging, the construction of a 450 metre container wharf, container cranes, container compounds, stockpile areas, internal roads, railway sidings, access road and other ancillary works. Full planning permission has been obtained by Waterford Harbour Commissioners.
In addition, the commissioners have advised me that the long term viability of the project is dependent on larger vessels and scheduled services, unhindered by tidal conditions, operating into Waterford. To achieve this the depth of water on the bars at Cheekpoint and Duncannon must be increased to a design depth of minus six metres Ordnance Datum. Expert advice received by the commissioners was that the construction of four groynes on the south side of the river would present the most cost effective solution, with least impact on the environment. The groynes, when constructed, will enable the harbour accommodate ships of 20,000 tonnes at all stages of the tide as against 12,000 tonnes at present. An application from Waterford Harbour Commissioners for a foreshore licence in respect of the construction of the groynes is under consideration in my Department at present and will be processed as quickly as possible.
Provision has been made in the National Development Plan and in the Operational Programme on Peripherality for expenditure by Waterford Harbour Commissioners of £15 million between now and 1993 on the provision of the harbour element of the facilities, and EC aid totalling £7.5 million has been approved in principle towards the cost. Prospects are good that the rail — £1.36  million — and road — £3 million — links to Belview will also qualify for EC aid under the road and rail elements of the Operational Programme on Peripherality. EC aid totalling £958,000 towards the cost of the project has already been paid to the commissioners. In addition and as an exceptional measure, State grant assistance of £200,000 was paid to Waterford Harbour Commissioners in 1990 in respect of expenditure already incurred on the project. Commercial borrowings totalling £705,500 in respect of essential preliminary works have been drawn down by the commissioners with my approval and that of the Minister for Finance in accordance with section 120 of the Harbours Act, 1946.
I am satisfied that the Belview project is justified — the present lo-lo container terminal has a design capacity of 80,000 TEUs; in 1991 it handled 130,000 TEUs. Because the existing terminal is being over-utilised, there is a very real danger that the wharf will be undermined to such an extent that it will have to be taken out of commission. Due to lack of capacity, traffic is being forced away from Waterford and the service to customers is being adversely affected.
The Belview lo-lo container terminal, when operational, will reduce by one hour sailing time between Waterford harbour and the UK and continental ports, will enable three ships to be worked simultaneously, will have flexible working arrangements — 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 364 days per year — which will result in a quicker ship turnaround time and thus will reduce costs to users. The lo-lo handling capacity of Waterford port will increase to 320,000 TEUs per annum. Waterford Harbour Commissioners are confident that the new container terminal at Belview will be completed and operational within 16 months from the date of commencement of the wharf construction.
While essential preliminary works, e.g. capital dredging, have been undertaken,  actual construction works have not commenced as yet. In 1991 Waterford Harbour Commissioners invited tenders for the wharf construction — £7.5 million — and crane acquisition — £3.7 million. While the commissioners have issued letters of intent to the successful tenderers — Ascon for the wharf and Davy Morris UK Limited for the crane — the contracts have not been awarded as yet as certain necessary formalities have not been completed. The financial package for the project still has to be finalised and the commissioners have not as yet executed an agreement with Bell Lines Limited — the intended main user of Belview — whereby Bells will effectively undertake to service commercial borrowings of up to £10 million by the commissioners. The final draft of the agreement, as approved by my Department, was forwarded to Waterford Harbour Commissioners on 9 March 1992. Hopefully, the agreement duly executed by the commissioners and Bells will be returned at an early date for formal endorsement of my consent.
The draft agreement provides that Bell Lines will provide sufficient income to the commissioners to enable the interest and capital cost of borrowings up to a maximum of £8.5 million for a one crane operation and £10 million for a two crane operation to be discharged over 15 years; in addition harbour rates in respect of guaranteed minimum throughputs will be paid by Bells to the commissioners. These harbour rates will be increased annually in line with or related to the increase in the CPI. In return Bells will have priority though not exclusive use of the Belview container terminal.
Thus it can be seen that the agreement will underwrite all the outgoings on the borrowings which Waterford Harbour Commissioners could not have undertaken out of their own income of approximately £1.5 million per annum. If traffic falls off for reasons other than force majeure or if Bells decide not to continue  using Waterford, they would still be legally bound to meet the capital and interest repayments. Without the agreement Waterford Harbour Commissioners would not be in a position to undertake the project on their own because of their present financial circumstances.
I should mention that the agreement also provides that Bells will continue to enjoy the use of the existing container terminal, the Frank Cassin Wharf. Of importance here is the fact that the management and operational structures currently in place at the Frank Cassin Wharf and which have been so successful, will continue. Once Bells transfer their operations to Belview, the Frank Cassin Wharf will be available to other container operators and both Waterford Harbour Commissioners and Bells are anxious to attract such operators to this wharf.
The original proposal was that the project, apart from any EC aid secured, would be funded jointly by Waterford Harbour Commissioners and Bells. The financing arrangement concluded by both parties was not acceptable to the EIB or lending institutions at home. Attempts by the commissioners to secure borrowings without a State guarantee for all or part of the proposed borrowings were unsuccessful. The Harbours Acts do not provide for borrowings by harbour authorities to be guaranteed by the State. In the absence of such a provision in the Acts a guarantee can only be provided under the State Guarantee Act, 1954.
Bell Lines have been associated with Waterford harbour since the 1960s and have spearheaded the drive to make lo-lo more cost effective nationally. During all that time Bell Lines have achieved all the projected growth figures they have given Waterford Harbour Commissioners and they have also fully honoured all their financial obligations to the commissioners.
The financial viability of Waterford Harbour Commissioners is heavily dependent on Bells continued association  with the port. Ownership of the Belview site is vested in Waterford Harbour Commissioners; likewise, ownership of the new wharf, cranes and on-shore facilities will be vested in the commissioners. Bells will be required to pay harbour rates to the commissioners and the Bell operation will continue to be subject to full compliance with the by-laws of the commissioners.
The established policy is that each harbour authority, including Waterford, should be operated as a commercial undertaking and should be financially self-supporting. Harbour authorities should conduct their affairs so as to ensure that revenues are not less than sufficient to remunerate capital and repay borrowings. The proposal now before the House is that the Schedule to the State Guarantees Act, 1954, be amended so that borrowings by Waterford Harbour Commissioners can be guaranteed by the State. This exceptional measure is warranted, in view of the significance of Waterford port, its impressive track record, and its unique place in efficient lo-lo development, which, of course, is crucial to the development of our exports.
I am prepared to recommend that borrowings of £10 million by Waterford Harbour Commissioners be guaranteed by the State because of the scale of the Belview project — total investment will amount to in excess of £20 million. The project is important from the point of view of improvements to overall access transport infrastructure. It will reduce by one hour the sailing time between Waterford harbour and UK and continental ports and thus reduce costs to importers and exporters. I am satisfied that without such a guarantee the project will not proceed. The Government will only be called upon to honour the guarantee in the event that Bells fail to meet their commitments to the commissioners.
In conclusion I am strongly of the view that the national advantage dictates the development of Waterford port. This view has been confirmed by an independent evaluation recently commissioned by my Department on the financial aspects of the project.
The project is now ready to go. The Dáil has given it total and unanimous approval and will welcome the start of the project as early as possible. We understand that the project can be completed and up and running by the end of next year. This is a tremendous development when you consider all the new facilities which are being provided in Belview.
Anyone who knows the site — I see some Senators here who would know it very well — will know that the location is an excellent one. It will make a huge difference to Waterford port and will very greatly increase and improve our access to the Single Market, to Europe and, of course, to the UK. If this guarantee is accepted by the House tonight, it would be my intention to arrange for the signature of the guarantee tomorrow. Once that is done, Waterford Harbour Commissioners will be in a position to award contracts valued at £11.2 million for which they have already had tenders.
They are finalising their negotiations with the European Investment Bank in connection with the £10 million borrowings. Once these are finalised, details will have to be forwarded to us and the borrowing will have to be sanctioned by me, as Minister for the Marine, and by the Minister for Finance in accordance with the 1946 Harbours Act. In tandem with this the guarantee would be signed by the Department of Finance. We can move immediately and directly into operation and the project can go ahead in a very short time span if this motion is approved by the House tonight.
Mr. Staunton: I welcome this motion, although it is controversial in a certain sense. In recent years the Government got their fingers burnt in many areas of semi-State activity by providing letters of comfort and through State guarantees. A principle has recently been adopted by the Government that, for the future, State investments are to be in viable projects which can stand, on their own merits, without letters of comfort or State guarantees in the background.
This proposal is unusual in the context of stated Government policy. We on this side of the House support this proposal. At the end of his speech the Minister stated very bluntly that, in his view and in the view of the Department, without a Government guarantee, this project would not exist. This is the rough cutting edge.
The Minister also referred to the fact that various loan applications were made, presumably to lending institutions in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, and were all unsuccessful because the State guarantee did not obtain. The project, in an Irish context, is very large. Waterford has been one of the most successful harbour developments in Ireland. Dublin port, in terms of activities, has had a death wish because traffic is turning to other ports on the east coast including ports in Northern Ireland.
The container traffic development in Waterford has been most successful and Bells have participated very successfully in it. This is evidenced by the extent of container traffic in the Republic going through Waterford, namely, in excess of 30 per cent of traffic. Assessments for the year 2005, which is not as distant as it seems, only 12½ years from now — indicate that we are going to see a doubling of estimated capacity. This plan allows additional berthage loading of three vessels at the same time, increasing the capacity of ships which can be handled from 12,000 tonnes to 20,000 tonnes, and we are looking at this against a background of substantial European Community  funds coming in. It is Hobson's Choice, given that there is a crucial need to expand the size of the port facilities and that there is a commercial entity like Bells who are prepared to do the task effectively. We are left with no option.
The Minister mentioned that while the commissioners have issued letters of intent to successful tenders, contracts have not been awarded because certain necessary formalities have not been completed. A financial package for the project still has to be finalised and — I find this a little controversial — the commissioners have not yet executed an agreement with Bell Lines, the intended main user of Belview, where Bells will effectively undertake to service commercial borrowings of up to £10 million by the commissioners. I wonder if in a sense this measure before the House is not a little premature. It seems to be commercially very unusual.
Mr. Staunton: It is my viewpoint and I am entitled to express it. It is a little premature, in the sense that this is a commercial company with a commercial interest in this project. This project seems to be at a very advanced stage and apparently there is not yet an agreement with the people who are going to use this facility commercially. I would have thought there should have been agreement before this matter came before the Oireachtas for resolution. Having said that, and on broad principle, I am unhappy about the State guarantees, but taking horses for courses and looking at this particular issue, the facts we are faced with are supportive of this measure.
Mr. H. Byrne: Unlike my colleague on the other side, who is entitled to his opinion, may I say that I fully support what the Minister is doing here this evening and I think we should get this measure through the House so as that the maximum progress may be made in the  minimum time. My only disappointment is that it happens to be at the Kilkenny-Waterford side of the river and I live on the Wexford side. However, I expect it to yield some benefits for the people of Wexford.
Waterford harbour and its commercial viability go back a long way. In fact, I think I am the only one living overlooking Waterford Harbour, I live under the shadow of the Hook lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Europe. I was kept awake many nights by the beam of light crossing the window every three seconds. As far back as the seventh century monks on the Hook Point lit bushfires to warn shipping entering Waterford harbour. The Hook lighthouse was built in the 11th century. I am putting these points before the House because it is important to show that for many generations, indeed centuries, Waterford harbour has been the commercial lifeblood of that area.
It became famous, of course, with the arrival of the Normans in 1170 at Baginbun. I am sure not too many know the origin of the expressions “by hook or by crook”. Arriving with the Normans in May 1170 came Strongbow, whose name was Richard FitzGilbert de Clare. Strongbow went from Baginbun to Waterford. He said he was going to take Waterford “by Hook or by Crook”— Crook is a small village at the other side of the river. My colleague, Senator Cullen, will be well aware of that. Strongbow did take Waterford by “Hook or by Crook”, and his payment was marriage to Aoife McMurrough. That is a little bit of history that will help to——
Going briefly through the Minister's speech, I accept wholeheartedly that Waterford harbour is one of Ireland's premier commercial ports. That is mainly because of its proximity to Europe. It is  essential to develop Waterford harbour because of our peripheral location. In the past the south-east has not fared as well as it might have done. I am delighted to see now that the Government are guaranteeing a loan. I accept what the Minister said, that if the loan were not guaranteed it is quite possible this project would fall.
The Waterford project is the largest port project in the programme. While I accept this fully, and I am very pleased about it, it concerns me to note that New Ross port is only just up river and I sincerely hope the viability of New Ross port will not be affected by this project. While saying that, I repeat that I totally support this project.
The Minister mentioned that it is intended to win back some of the substantial Republic of Ireland traffic that moved to Northern Ireland ports. I ask the Minister to examine why the cost of shipping in the south-east, through Rosslare and through Waterford, is so much greater than through Larne. I know, and I am sure other Senators from the south-east will know, that industries with an export capacity have lost out because of this. I, therefore, ask the Minister to take a very careful look at this.
I am obviously concerned about the effect this project might have on New Ross. I want to make specific mention of the four groynes on the south side of the river which the Minister mentioned in his speech and about which the New Ross Harbour Commissioners are concerned. There is no question of an objection, but we want to be sure that the groynes that will be put in place will not affect the shipping lane to New Ross, which is already hampered by both the Barrow bridge and the Pink Rock, two items I will mention very shortly.
I notice that the rail and road links to Belview will also qualify for EC aid and I am anxious to know if the Barrow railway bridge will qualify for aid. I will put the House in the picture regarding the Barrow bridge. The opening span has to  open every time a ship goes up river to New Ross and back. The opening span is very narrow. Many times in the fairly recent past we have had collisions with the structure, and in the past year CIE spent £1 million making repairs. The obvious answer is to widen the span. I am anxious to know if some of the aid mentioned here could help CIE to widen the span on the Barrow bridge and so remove one of the bottlenecks to New Ross port. I hope the Minister will respond to that. Like Waterford, New Ross has grown substantially in the past. Both ports have operated closely together even though they are within 16 miles of one another.
Mr. H. Byrne: I will be brief, but you will understand that I live close to this area and I want to ensure that both New Ross and Waterford can prosper together. The tonnage through New Ross has grown from 852,000 tonnes in 1986 to 954,000 in 1991. I want to see that continue. I want the Minister to assure me that New Ross will not be affected to the detriment of the port by the obvious success of Waterford.
Because of pressure being put on me by the Acting Chairman I will now close. I would like to say to the Minister again that we are delighted to see this kind of activity in the south east. It will benefit Wexford, with the new road to Waterford and with the ferry across the river. I am pleading with the Minister to ensure that New Ross port will continue to prosper, because it is indispensable to the economic viability of New Ross town.
Mr. Neville: I, too, would like to welcome the motion and congratulate Waterford on this development, which  will cost in excess of £20 million. It is a very important development in that we must recognise that the extension and development of our trade with the EC and worldwide is bound up with the growth in our economy. I would like to congratulate Waterford in their initiative and wish them well. I would also like to draw the Minister's attention to another port which is expanding quite dramatically. I refer of course to the port of Foynes, in which I am sure the Acting Chairman will have considerable interest.
Mr. Neville: In designating Foynes as a local rather than a commercial port, I believe the Government have effectively downgraded its status which will seriously inhibit its development I would like to take this opportunity of discussing it with the new Minister. I call on him to immediately reverse the decision of his predecessor.
In the Operational Programme on Peripherality the Government clearly state that the strategy will be to promote investment in commercial ports like Waterford rather than in the local ports, in which category Foynes is designated. In fact, Foynes has not been selected by  the Government for priority investment. This is a big disappointment to us in Limerick. As a member of Foynes Harbour Trustees I am very disappointed with the decision of the report on peripherality in regard to this. It states that “development of these key ports is designed to ensure that services and facilities available to Irish exporters are upgraded so that they do not suffer any further competitive disadvantage in relation to their European counterparts, particularly in the areas of access transport”. Foynes is not designated as a key port and is excluded from this. That infers that Foynes will suffer further competitive disadvantage in relation to its European counterparts.
The report also states that “in order to improve the efficiency of those key ports it will be part of the development strategy to discourage the tendency towards the fragmentation of routes and services”. I do not accept that the improvement of ports such as Foynes will lead to fragmentation of routes and services. Foynes should develop in unison with all the other commercial ports. It has the facility to do so. It draws its cargo from all parts of Ireland, from Donegal to Louth to Dublin. I believe it should be designated as a commercial port, should receive the same attention and the same development, and have a much broader role than just an internal commercial port. In the interests of my colleagues from Kilkenny and Waterford, I will now sit down. I am serious about this matter and I hope to take up the issue with the Minister at a later stage. Thank you very much for your indulgence, Sir.
Mr. Cullen: Obviously, as somebody from the City of Waterford and born and reared there, I am anxious to get in on this debate. With regard to the Minister's appointment, I am personally delighted that somebody of his calibre will look after the Department of the Marine. With no disrespect to his predecessors, I believe that a new, visionary, effective  and decision-making approach is needed in the interests of what we are discussing here this evening and in the interests of our fishing industry in particular. I have already noted the activities of the Minister in this area. The keen interest he has already shown is lifting the hearts of many people directly involved in marine matters, and particularly in the fishing industry. I want to put that on record. I do not in any way mean to be patronising. I mean it most genuinely. We look forward to working with the Minister.
Obviously the State Guarantees Act we are discussing this evening is an essential ingredient for the construction of the new facility in Waterford. I am in a unique position in being from the city: I live next door to the existing terminal and I know how noisy it is. My family have been directly involved in the port of Waterford since the turn of the century and are still actively involved in shipping — not in the Bell Ferry Shipping Company, I might add, so there is no conflict of interest when I speak here this evening.
As the Minister is aware, this project has been on hand now for practically 12 months. It has taken some time to get to the position where the State Guarantees Act, 1954, would be amended to facilitate this very important project. In economic terms — and what we are talking about this evening is from the point of view of the island of Ireland and not just the Republic of Ireland — this port will be a great boost to all companies exporting lo-lo traffic from this country. It is clear that even to put a TEU on a train from Belfast to Waterford, have it loaded and brought to the port of Rotterdam is faster, more efficient and more cost effective than it is by going through the land-bridge through the UK, whether you go through Northern Ireland or the port of Dublin. That is a fact.
We are talking here in terms of improving the efficiency of the Irish economy. One of the greatest problems we have is the cost of transport out of this country  and anything that can help exporters reduce those costs can, unquestionably, help to increase employment in this country. That is why facilities like those we are talking about here this evening are such an essential ingredient in an overall national economic strategy that benefits not just Waterford or the south-east but has a national impact on the wellbeing of the economy. I hope the delays in getting this legislation through for this project will not hinder any other projects. It is essential that we have an efficiency level second to none, with less bureaucracy, to expedite matters of this kind which can have a huge impact on how we do business in this country.
The Minister has, quite rightly, outlined the importance of this port. I want to reassure him and the other Senators who have spoken that it is not just a question that we are realising existing potential in this new development. It is already clearly established that we are now over 50 per cent in excess of the existing capacity of the Frank Cassin wharf with traffic already being deferred. The potential for this port will be realisable long before we reach the year 2005. When the Government signed the agreement with the EC establishing Waterford as the key lo-lo port to Europe, they recognised that it was not just something for Waterford or the south-east but that it was a strategic decision taken in the interests of the development of this country. This is the consistent view that should be taken, rather than being parochial when Ministers are appointed from different counties and seeking to disadvantage other areas for no other reason than the assumption that it is good business or good politics to be seen to be pushing something, whether it is commercially viable or not. We need to get away from that attitude.
I believe this project will give rise to a fresh new approach. I have no doubt this port within a very short space of time will be in need of further expansion. I ask the  Minister and his Department not to see this development as an end in itself. This should be the beginning of a strategic development. In the south-east, based in Rosslare, we have the passenger terminal for Europe and for the UK out of this country. It is clear that the parallel lo-lo development of the Waterford port at Belview brings to the south-east a degree of investment and recognition which in itself can meet many of the country's needs. I want to see continued development in the south-east now that we have established on both fronts the key need for such projects to be developed further.
I would also say to the Minister not to forget that Waterford is not just potentially a port for lo-lo traffic; there is also potential there — indeed it was part of the original outline plan — for bulk cargo. This could be potentially facilitated in an expanded port development in that area. If it is true that on lo-lo traffic we can achieve the efficiencies already demonstrated, then surely we should be able to do something similar with regard to bulk cargo traffic as well.
I welcome the fact that when this draft order will be signed tomorrow we will be able to expedite the beginning of this project. One of the Senators was concerned in regard to New Ross. I do not see in this development any conflict or any diminution of the potential of New Ross port. I believe it is unique in that it handles certain bulk cargoes very efficiently and the development of lo-lo traffic does not in any way conflict with the development of New Ross port. As the need for cost effectiveness grows and greater volumes and larger ships are needed for us to be competitive on a European scale, both the inner port in Waterford and the inner port in New Ross may eventually find themselves, in regard to bulk cargo, located together downriver as an extension of this Belview project. If that happens and if it brings benefit to both areas, let us not be afraid to face the challenge and those developments.
 I spoke earlier about the island of Ireland benefiting from this development. Infrastructural developments are also needed to ensure that that possibility is maximised by having a fast and efficient rail link right down the east coast to this port. The rail tracks are already there, they run down the east coast but we need more investment in this line to make it more efficient for a faster delivery to this port area.
I know my colleague from Kilkenny, Senator Lanigan, is anxious to speak on this matter. I welcome the speed with which the Minister has dealt with this motion. I look forward to the other developments on a broader front which the Minister will undoubtedly initiate in his Department and I also look forward to a very prosperous, active time in all areas of the marine.
Mr. Lanigan: I am not going to delay the Minister or the House. However, there are a few matters I would like to raise, because County Kilkenny is also involved. A number of points have to be covered — the local point of view, the regional point of view, the national point of view and the European point of view. If Ireland is to become a major participant in the EC we will have to take account of our peripherality, and that is by having direct access. Mention has not been made of the fact that the Channel Tunnel will be opening very shortly. If we do not have efficient transportation from Ireland directly to the mainland of Europe there is no point in talking about peripherality, because we will no longer be a nation of exporters but will be left totally on our own. Unless we develop our communications we will lose.
The development of this site took place as a result of a joint venture between the IDA and Kilkenny County Council many years ago. The site became available as a result of that past co-operation. I must give thanks to John Clancy, the new general manager of the Harbour Commissioners in Waterford, for the fantastic  work on this project over the past number of years; but it should not be forgotten that Kilkenny County Council were involved in the planning and there were many problems associated with the site in terms of linkage to main roads and so on.
There is mention of a £3 million road link to the Belview site. That £3 million is being spent on a Euro-link between Waterford and New Ross and a small link from the Waterford-New Ross Euro-link down to the port; but unfortunately we have major problems associated with road linkage to that site. The only one way you can get to Cork by road from that site is across the only bridge over the Suir and you have to go through Waterford city to get to Cork. Therefore, if we are serious about access to that site by road, we are going to have to take into account that another bridge will have to be built across the Suir. It is essential that there be co-operation from the Departments of the Marine, Environment and Finance to insist that there is a proper linkage from Kilkenny to Waterford and that as part of that development there will be a second bridge to give proper access to Cork from this new port facility.
If this is going to be a Euro terminal for lo-lo transport there will have to be proper road access to the west from this port. If you want to get to the west from this port at present you have to go into Waterford city and then across the worst road system in Ireland from New Ross. It is hazardous in the extreme for trucks used for lo-lo traffic. If we are serious on this issue we also have to provide proper rail links from Dublin to Waterford and from Cork to this facility. I am not making up difficulties, but I am suggesting that there are major difficulties to be overcome.
The commercial aspects of this project have been mentioned. Let it be said that the investment is not a direct investment; it is a guarantee that if everything went wrong the State would guarantee certain things. The State is not going to  pour good money after bad but will ensure we have one of the only ways we can get to Europe with a lo-lo facility. It has to be here and the Government have to provide the State guarantee——
Mr. Lanigan: I welcome this Bill and I am glad that under the decentralisation programme, part of the Department of the Marine will be located in Kilkenny. People could not understand why but the Department of the Marine will be looking after the development of this port for many years to come.
Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods): I thank Senators for their contributions. Senator Staunton questioned why the other packages were not completed at this stage; it is all one package and it needs the guarantee to complete the package. The board of Bells are meeting this afternoon to finalise their agreement. I tried to hurry these different steps through and I got co-operation in both Houses and from my officials. As a result, things can move on at this stage.
Senator Staunton asked about the banks. Regrettably the lending institutions were not prepared to provide the guarantees and make the borrowings available without a State guarantee. The guarantee was required by the European  Investment Bank and, at the end of the day, there was no other way for the project to go ahead. I accept what has been said, but given the amount of money provided by way of EC grants together with the arrangements Bells made, etc., it was seen as a package which should have been accepted by the lending institutions. Regrettably that was not the case.
I am confident that things will move quickly to complete the different elements. Senator Byrne gave the history of Waterord port and I am very conscious of that. One fact the Senator did not mention was that many merchant navy men went all around the world from Waterford port and if you look at Reginalds Tower you will see that they went to Canada and Newfoundland. They were outgoing people.
Dr. Woods: Senator Byrne was worried about the groynes and made a reasonable point. We will watch that. A foreshore licence is required and we will examine all aspects of the groynes. They are intended to deepen the water harbour and will make a huge difference. We will have to make sure that this project will not adversely affect New Ross. The Senator can be assured of that.
He also mentioned the bridge and other links. An application from the New Ross Harbour Commissioners for EC aid towards the cost of widening the spans of Barrow bridge would fall to be considered in the post-1993 programme. That is something we will follow up.
Senator Neville raised the question of Foynes. I am quite familiar with that because on New Year's Day I was loading beef there for Russia. There were great workers there who did a tremendous job. They would get money under the aid for local ports as Foynes is included in the programme for local ports. A certain amount of money has been provided and  no doubt development will continue there.
I thank Senator Cullen and others for their welcome. This is a tremendous project, especially if you realise that we can look forward to this 450 metre development with all the ancillary facilities. It is a wonderful development. It is very much part of the overall strategy of access to Europe and I accept what was said by several Senators in that regard. Access to Europe is crucial for us.
I was interested in the point made by Senator Cullen about the efficiency in Waterford port regarding lo-lo containers and the fact that so many people were coming from Belfast to Waterford for that service. We are told that the new facilities should be ready by the end of next year, which is a tremendous development and one we would like to see go ahead urgently.
I am very grateful for all the contributions made. I welcome the fact that Senators came here this evening to ensure that this motion would be passed. We can move on rapidly now to get the project under way.
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