Irish ports ‘need EU funding’ to avoid isolation following Brexit

Conor Healy, CEO, Cork Chamber, guest speaker Brendan Keating, Port of Cork; Orla Flynn, honorary secretary, Cork Chamber, and Aidan Forde, Irish Examiner, at the Cork Chamber March Business Breakfast, in association with the Irish Examiner, at Cork International Hotel yesterday. Pic: Larry Cummins

By Pádraig Hoare

Ireland is at significant risk of isolation following Brexit and will need EU funding to shore up the lack of connectivity to major European routes says the Port of Cork chief executive.

Brendan Keating says there was a case to be made for grant aid from EU institutions following the UK leaving the bloc.

“We will be significantly more isolated because of Brexit. I’m concerned about maritime transport connectivity. State aid rules as currently constituted don’t allow EU support of the purchase of ships or that kind of mobile asset, I believe.

“However, I do believe some kind of subvention can be issued to operators of such ships for such services.

“We have similar arrangements in terms of the servicing of regional airports of this country, to the public service obligations-type instruments.

From our perspective, the fact we have highlighted it, the matter is on the agenda now for consideration, and the European finance commissioner in Dublin highlighted the fact that there will have to be something in the EU budget line to address this kind of challenge. It means the Government is talking about it, and the EU is listening.

“Grant aid is the most appropriate instrument. So-called blending products that relate to low-interest loans primarily made available by the European Investment Bank may not be appropriate.

“All in all, we are at risk of a very significant degree of additional isolation and we need to beat that drum very strongly,” he said.

Mr Keating said the Port of Cork had seen a surge in imports, exports, oil traffic, and cruise liners, in 2017.

He said the development of Tivoli on Cork’s northside from 2025 would be one of the most significant ever in the city, with the capacity for 5,000 homes, when the Port of Cork vacated the land.

The city’s docklands would be an ideal location for an international shipping services centre, alongside the major private development currently happening.

The €80m redevelopment of Ringaskiddy port was essential for the future of the Port of Cork, he said.

He was speaking at a business breakfast meeting of Cork Chamber.

The aim was to have the container terminal completed by mid-2020, he said.

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