Challenges for Ports arising from Brexit: Discussion

On behalf of the committee, I would like to welcome Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly, chief executive of the Dublin Port Company and Mr. Michael Sheary, company secretary and chief financial officer of the Dublin Port Company. I also welcome Mr. Glenn Carr, general manager of Rosslare Europort, Mr. Barry Kenny, corporate communications manager of Iarnród Éireann and Mr. Pat Keating, chief executive of Shannon Foynes Port Company. Witnesses representing the Port of Cork are attending virtually. From this quarter I welcome Mr. Eoin McGettigan, CEO, Mr. Conor Mowlds, chief commercial officer, and Mr. Donal Crowley, company secretary and chief financial officer.

I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

For witnesses attending remotely there are some limitations on parliamentary privilege. Such witnesses may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as witnesses who are physically present. Witnesses participating in this committee session from a jurisdiction outside the State are advised that they should be mindful of their domestic law and how it may apply to the evidence they give.

I advise the witnesses that we are limited to an hour and a half. I ask them to summarise their statements and confine them to four minutes. I apologise for these limitations, which have been caused by Brexit exigencies.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

Starting in December 2017, the Dublin Port Company took "Brexit means Brexit" literally and began to prepare for the introduction of border controls in Dublin Port. The company has spent €30 million on Brexit infrastructure. On foot of joint efforts with the Office of Public Works, OPW, huge inspection capacity is now available in Dublin Port for the challenge of Brexit. The Brexit facilities are on eight sites, covering a land area of 14.5 ha. They include 16,000 sq. m, that is, 170,000 sq. ft., of warehousing and 25 inspection bays.

Dublin Port accounts for 84% of all containers and trailers that carry goods in and out of Irish ports. In total, 1.5 million units pass through Dublin Port in a year. Today, 200,000 of these carry goods coming from or going to non-EU destinations such as the Far East and are already subject to border controls. On 1 January, 200,000 will become 1.1 million. The extra 900,000 units that will require control are evenly split. Half will be on the longer ferry route to or from Liverpool and half will be on the shorter ferry route to or from Holyhead.

Liverpool trade is mostly unaccompanied but Holyhead trade is mostly driver-accompanied. As a result it will be particularly urgent to get the 800 to 1,000 driver-accompanied loads that come off the Holyhead ferries every day through the new border checks. Border checks will cause delays and the current Holyhead ferry arrival times will increase these delays. Some eight ferries arrive in pairs from Holyhead in four waves, six hours apart. There is typically ten minutes between the arrival of one large ferry and that of another. We would like these eight ferries to arrive at three-hour intervals. The ferry companies say their schedules are determined by customer requirements. The timing of ferry arrivals in the morning is the same today as it was in the 1980s, when the British and Irish Steam Packet Company operated from Dublin Port and Sealink operated from Dún Laoghaire Harbour.

The huge Brexit infrastructure is necessary but not, in itself, sufficient. It needs to be manned and operated by State agencies on a truly 24-7 basis and we have been assured that it will be. However, more transparency on the capacity of State agencies throughout all 168 hours of the week would be beneficial for all stakeholders. Supply chain behaviour will have to change after Brexit. It would be helpful if the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine could be persuaded to publish key performance indicators showing inspection activity levels each week.

Dublin Port is already very busy and there is a risk that container terminal traffic, combined with the movement of heavy goods vehicles, HGVs, between ferries and border control facilities, could exacerbate delays and lead to congestion. By mid-December we will have completed major works to increase the capacity of the port's road network. We will then launch an information campaign targeted at hauliers and cargo owners to explain new traffic management measures that will be in place before year end. We will take the opportunity to suggest to hauliers and cargo owners that they tell the ferry companies whether or not the current Holyhead arrival times actually meet their requirements. We will also suggest that the hauliers insist on being given booking times by the port's container terminals so that excessive on-road queuing and wasted HGV driver time can be avoided.

In the worst case there could be congestion in Dublin Port and contingency plans have been prepared. Most notably, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, has developed a procedure to allow HGVs exiting the southbound bore of the Dublin Port Tunnel to be U-turned to the northern bore if the port congests. In this way, traffic can be kept flowing in the tunnel and on the motorway network until congestion abates in the port. In addition, sites where HGVs can be directed to park up if required have been identified. The Department of Transport will make a public announcement on these arrangements shortly.

I thank Mr. O'Reilly.

Mr. Eoin McGettigan

I have been the chief executive of the Port of Cork Company since October. I am accompanied by Donal Crowley, chief financial officer, and Conor Mowlds, chief commercial officer.

The Port of Cork is the second largest port in the State. It handles all cargo types and operates facilities in Cork city, Tivoli, Ringaskiddy and Cobh. The port also includes Whitegate oil refinery and Whiddy oil storage facility. The Tivoli container terminal has limitations, hence the requirement for us to relocate to Ringaskiddy at a cost of almost €90 million, which will economically benefit customers and Cork city and the region and future-proof Cork as an international gateway. This commercial development is due to open in 2022.

In the context of Brexit, in 2019 the port bulk trade amounted to 6.7 million tonnes, of which 1 million tonnes, or 15%, was with the UK. The Port of Cork has nine container ships per week carrying 240,000 20-ft equivalent units per annum. Approximately 12% of this cargo is with the UK. In 2019, 111 cruise liners visited the port, of which 75% had touched UK ports as well. We are working locally and nationally with customs and relevant Departments to ensure we are Brexit-ready. We have considered the impact of Brexit in various forms on our activities as well as our overall economic concern about the effect it will have. Our ro-ro services are currently directly linked with the EU and are not impacted by Brexit. They comprise ro-pax services to Roscoff and con-ro services to Zeebrugge. We have extended our compounds in Ringaskiddy to cater for these services. The expansion of direct routes to the Continent would offer a solution to the UK land bridge problem and congestion. As for container traffic, the Port of Cork has a Revenue-approved customs bond. Brexit should not impact these traffic lead times as customs clearance of non-EU cargo is done electronically. In addition, any shift from ro-ro to lo-lo containers would help to alleviate congestion. The port also has two transatlantic services. Our liquid bulk customers, which relate mainly to oil, are concerned about the additional administrative burden but do not anticipate any interruption in supply. Animal feed customers have concerns about crossing the Border into Northern Ireland and increased tariffs.

The port faces significant challenges from the indirect consequence of decreased trade as we look to service the debt we have taken on for the new container terminal. However, we are well positioned to enhance Ireland's trade connectivity by establishing more direct routes to mainland Europe. We do not, however, have a border control inspection post, where products of animal or organic origin can be presented for introduction into Europe and undergo the necessary checks. If we had such a post, the Port of Cork could act as an alternative, contingency and overflow facility should difficulties and congestion arise at other ports. The commencement of the transatlantic container service also accelerates the need for such a control post. The cruise trade involving the UK and Ireland common travel area is important, and an efficient mechanism for checking passports should be maintained. Finally, the completion of the Dunkettle interchange, the M28 Ringaskiddy road and the road from Cobh are critical to connect our port facilities to the rest of Ireland's internal road network.

Mr. Glenn Carr

I thank the Chairman and the committee for the opportunity to discuss Rosslare Europort and our preparedness for Brexit. Brexit has presented and will present many challenges and opportunities for Rosslare Europort, our customers and our stakeholders. Over the past two and a half years we have worked closely and in alignment with Government agencies, shipping lines, the haulage industry, trade associations and other key interest groups. At the forefront of all these discussions, working groups and planning processes has been the commitment of all parties involved to deliver the best workable solution that will have the least impact on the customer and the free movement of traffic in and out of Rosslare Europort. Rosslare Europort is the second busiest roll-on roll-off passenger port in the country and is a key strategic port for the country as we trade through Brexit. We handle on average approximately 14% of ro-ro traffic in the country, serving key routes into the UK and mainland Europe. For the sake of time, our services are set out in our written statement.

Increasing the connectivity and frequency of shipping services is the key objective in growing Rosslare Europort and its importance to the country. In particular, the growing of services to mainland Europe is essential to protect our exporters' and importers' supply lines and avoid the predicted disruptions to the UK land bridge envisaged post Brexit to these essential markets for Ireland. In 2019 direct ro-ro services from Rosslare to Europe decreased in number to three sailings per week following the decision of Irish Ferries to operate its Cherbourg service via Dublin. Today I am delighted to tell the committee that from January 2021 there will be 11 direct services from Rosslare to Europe, further increasing to 13 from March, representing a quadrupling of direct services to Europe from Rosslare in the past 18 months.

Despite the very positive increase in direct services to Europe from Rosslare, trade will continue with the UK, and it is equally important we ensure the smooth transition on our services to and from the UK in the new post-Brexit environment. Extensive planning and works have gone into Rosslare Europort, and I thank the Ministers and the Secretaries General and their teams from the Department of Transport, the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Department of Health and the Office of Public Works for their enormous support and guidance in our preparation. Significant investment in both infrastructure and resources has gone into Rosslare Europort from all Government agencies and Iarnród Éireann as port authority, and I am confident that Rosslare Europort is well prepared for Brexit. Recent consultations between port management, Government agencies, shipping lines and the haulage sector have highlighted the general view that Rosslare Europort is well positioned to handle events post 1 January 2021.

The temporary border inspection post facility, which will be the designated area in which to carry out the required checks post Brexit, is fully completed and operational, and all State agencies are amalgamated on the one site. Rosslare Europort is in a unique position in that the border inspection post is located approximately 1 km away from berths. This will ensure that freight and passenger traffic will continue to move freely to and from ships and the port post January, as it does today. While no doubt some congestion may occur during the initial stages of Brexit, no major congestion is envisaged. Consultation has also taken place with Wexford County Council and An Garda Síochána, with an agreed traffic management plan in place for both the port and the surrounding area. Furthermore, extensive signage at key locations has been identified both inside and outside of the port to ensure that the routing of traffic is clearly visible and understood to direct movements to the appropriate areas and avoid unnecessary congestion or confusion. State agencies have also engaged extensively with shipping lines and the haulage sector on the requirements post Brexit and the required paperwork and notifications that will be in place. Recognition should also be given to the shipping lines and industry associations such as the Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA, the Freight Transport Association of Ireland, FTAI, the Irish Exporters Association, IEA, and many others for their commitment and partnership approach in proactively engaging with customers, State agencies and Rosslare Europort. This has been a great all-round team effort, and I am very grateful to all who have been involved over the past 24 months in preparing Rosslare Europort.

Finally, while Brexit has presented and will present real challenges to the country, it has also highlighted the strategic importance of a regional port such as Rosslare and the key role it can play in supporting our economy. Rosslare Europort is now less than 90 minutes from the M50, and continued investment in road infrastructure is essential in order that the port has the required connectivity to all key industrial hubs in the country. Rosslare Europort can also help to alleviate the congestion that other ports such as Dublin experience. In doing so, it can provide real alternative options for the vital supply chains of Irish industry. This was most evident last week with the announcement by the DFDS shipping line of a new six-times-weekly direct service between Rosslare Europort and Dunkirk. The new service, which begins on 2 January 2021, will give Irish industry a vital post-Brexit connection, with congestion-free access to Rosslare Europort and land bridge-free access to the Continent of Europe. Added to our existing services, it will cement Rosslare's status as Ireland's gateway to Europe. I thank the Chairman and committee members.

Mr. Pat Keating

I thank the committee for inviting me to present to discuss the challenges facing ports in the context of Brexit. Shannon Foynes Port Company is Ireland's largest bulk port company and has statutory jurisdiction on the lower Shannon Estuary, covering 500 sq. km. With channel depths of up to 32 m, the port handles the largest vessels entering Irish waters and has capacity to handle over 11 million tonnes per annum.

Its activities have a trade value of €8.5 billion per annum, supporting 3,900 full-time jobs.

Shannon Foynes has 1,200 ha zoned for maritime development, making it ideally suited for future national port infrastructure of scale for this country. In order to fully realise these comparative advantages, expansion and development of the port is led by its 30-year master plan, Vision 2041.

As SFPC is currently a bulk port, its operations are less likely to be materially affected by Brexit. Brexit operational implications consist of increased customs and increased agricultural checks on primarily roll on-roll off, RoRo, and lift on-lift off, LoLo, traffic to and from UK or using the UK as a land bridge to and from Europe. However, a no-deal Brexit will affect underlying sectors and accordingly, SFPC faces significant risk from a revenue perspective if these sectors are negatively impacted. In relation to our customer base, the agricultural sector appears most exposed. This could then have consequential knock on effects on feed and fertiliser imports. Other cargoes may also be impacted.

While unitised transport has rightly being receiving much of the attention regarding Brexit and ports, SFPC is also a substantial energy port. Brexit is likely to have implications for the energy sector as the UK will be deemed a third country under new trade rules applicable from 1 January. Accordingly, Brexit planning at SFPC is focused on business development as well as ensuring we have sufficient port capacity and hinterland connectivity in place.

Some of the key targeted growth areas include organic growth, that is, increasing trade form existing customer base across all underlying sectors; establishing the Shannon Estuary as an offshore renewable energy, ORE, hub for floating offshore wind energy; establishing a Foynes logistics hub and global transhipment facility for intermodal-unitised cargoes; facilitating alternative fuel transhipment and-or production, such as hydrogen, ammonia, LNG, on the Shannon Estuary; and implementing the Limerick docklands strategy. For example, the establishment of an offshore renewable energy hub on the Shannon Estuary could generate thousands of jobs in the regional and national economy. A recent Danish study concluded that for every 1 GW of offshore energy generated supported 14,600 full-time jobs in Denmark's wind sector. Shannon Foynes is the closest deep water port to this resource and is ideally suited to locate the associated energy supply chain.

Land availability has arisen as a critical issue around Brexit planning. In this regard, Shannon Foynes Port Company is well resourced, with more than 1,200 ha zoned and 160 ha available at Foynes. Accordingly, and together with the completion of the Limerick to Foynes road, Foynes Port can offer choice and contingency to the market in the short to medium term.

Consistent with our master plan Vision 2041 and the national planning framework, the next phases of our investment programme, costing around €26 million, are planned to commence in the first quarter of 2021. In addition, preliminaries have also commenced for a new 700 m deep water jetty at Foynes. Lead times for port infrastructure of this nature is seven to ten years. Other matters such as the national marine planning framework and the new foreshore Bill are outstanding.

While Brexit will undoubtedly bring its challenges, it is not our greatest impediment from an ongoing operational or growth perspective. Insufficient hinterland connectivity remains a primary obstacle. Without it the port cannot fully integrate into the supply chain and its potential to establish an offshore renewable energy hub will be undermined. Both the completion of the Limerick to Foynes road and the reinstatement of the Limerick to Foynes rail line are critically important if the substantial port assets of the Shannon Estuary are to be fully optimised.

I thank Mr. Keating and all the witnesses for being concise. We will have plenty of questions to get through.

I will focus attention on the Shannon Foynes Port Company in relation to Rosslare Europort. Will Mr. Keating provide an update on progress on the potential to develop an offshore renewable energy hub? That ties into the work proposed for a Shannon Estuary task force. Will Mr. Keating bring us through that and the opportunity to develop a Foynes logistical hub and global transhipment facility along the estuary?

Mr. Pat Keating

On offshore renewable energy, depending on who one talks to the resources out there are 30 GW to 70 GW per annum. For context, the Irish grid is approximately 7,500 GW, so it has a scale by ten of the Irish local grid demand. The current climate action plan is for 70% renewable electricity supply by 2030. That misses the opportunity because the other 90% of availability of potential power on the Atlantic needs to find a market. It will not be potentially the Irish market; it will need to be exported. That can be done in two ways, either by using the power to create hydrogen or ammonia which can be used as a liquid fuel for heavy transport and can be shipped around the world or used on the domestic market or one can build a new super-grid. We have been very active with the industry and the industry has come to us, which is good, with major wind developers looking at the potential to develop the offshore renewable energy in the Shannon Estuary. It is about bringing the supply chain to the resource. Regarding energy, that 70 GW is one part of it that is up for harnessing. It is 30 GW for the Government's programme. That is technology that will increase over time. That is the power aspect but the underlying supply chain is where the real added value exists for the country. The Danish report showed that was where the 14,600 jobs were coming from, not the actual energy generation. It was the supply chain. Facilities are required to manufacture potentially turbines, floating devices for platforms, plus the anchorage systems and all the underlying components. There is a raft of a very diverse engineering type of supply chain required and it is needed near the deep water port to access the energy itself in order to keep operational costs down. For example, for wind, the levelised cost of energy, LCOE, which is the key performance indicator that measures the cost of energy across difference sources, is due to reduce to a similar level as thermal gas generation by late next decade. Everyone in the industry and commentators say the efficiency of off-shore wind will be comparable to the best we have today in thermal gas generation. This is a massive opportunity for Ireland to realise that potential but we have to act fast. We are competing against France, Spain, Norway and Denmark, countries which already have established supply chains in this area. We would like policy recognition from the Government that there is a huge opportunity here.

The next question is how we realise that and what we need to put in place. As I noted in my opening statement, low hanging fruit include the marine spatial plan due next year and an update of the foreshore Bill. They are critically important.

Mr. Keating sent an integrated document from Clare, Limerick and Kerry county councils.

Mr. Pat Keating

Yes. That relates to the 12,000 ha of zonings. This is so big that it will potentially have to be done on several sites, the SPL sites that were zoned on the estuary. It could include the likes of Foynes, Monneypoint, Ballylongford, Cahericon in Clare. All the sites that have zoning are made for this. The potential and scope is huge but as a country we need to get ahead, because we are behind. We do not really have a national policy for floating offshore. We have the objective of getting 70% of electricity from renewables by 2030 but that is only for our own local grid, not for the big resource of 70 GW. Our own local grid is only 6,500 GW or 7,500 GW. That needs to be resolved.

On the Foynes logistics hub, currently Foynes port is relatively isolated.

We do not have adequate hinterland connections. The first piece of this is to get that port and the port assets into the system, so we need to connect it. Hence the road. The Limerick to Foynes road is critical-----

Mr. Pat Keating

Yes. The Limerick to Foynes road is going before An Bord Pleanála and oral hearings are due. It is critically important that the pressure is kept on to get that road done. All going well, it is still at least three years away. Until Shannon Foynes Port is connected, it will be very difficult for it to contribute to the Brexit argument in terms of containers and so on because we just do not have the suitable connectivity. We are not close enough to the market. That is an issue.

I suggest that we note that concern and include it in our report. We should highlight the importance of that road and the connectivity to Shannon Foynes and recommend that it be fast tracked.

We will wholeheartedly endorse that as a committee.

I will direct my initial questions to Mr. Keating. There is much good work going on in the Shannon Foynes Port Company, with €8.5 billion generated through its activities, supporting 3,900 jobs. Going forward, there is huge potential on the Clare side of the estuary. That has been identified in the strategic framework. As we know, Moneypoint will be moving out of fossil fuels by 2025 and its future beyond that is not fully known. However, it is widely expected that it will relate to offshore renewables, particularly wind energy. Moneypoint has an awful lot to offer the region and the whole west. It has 400 kV power lines that were installed in the 1980s, the likes of which we have not seen installed elsewhere in Ireland in recent decades. The jetty at Moneypoint is also 380 m long. I am sure it is the envy of the people in Foynes. It will not have the same level of usage when we move away from coal shipments coming in to west Clare. There is a huge opportunity to have a longer jetty there in the deepest channel of water in the Shannon, which can accommodate vessels up to 290 m in length. It is colossal. Its potential is huge.

How does Mr. Keating envisage Clare looping in to all Shannon Foynes's plans going forward? I also ask him to comment on the cross-Shannon cable. This is the large, heavy volume electricity cable that will go below the estuary from Moneypoint to Kilpaddoge in north Kerry. Has Mr. Keating any inputs there in terms of generating the renewable economy along the estuary?

Mr. Pat Keating

The harbour for the Shannon Foynes Port Company is the entire lower Shannon Estuary. Our harbour bounds Clare, Kerry and Limerick county councils. We were a major contributor to the integrated framework plan, and the new sites or strategic development locations, SDLs, that have been zoned were done with our involvement. We look at the estuary in its entirety. We do not look at it on a county-by-county basis because the port authority encompasses the Shannon Estuary. There are huge advantages for the site in Moneypoint and the deepwater port there. It is the only port in the country that can take in capesize vessels, which are 300 m long. The energy White Paper for 2025 is fast approaching. The jetty is owned by the ESB and we talk to it regularly. From those discussions, there is a consensus that floating offshore renewables will be a prime target for that jetty.

One other huge advantage the Shannon Estuary has with regard to attracting floating offshore energy is that there is already 1.6 GW of fossil fuel power generation on the estuary between the ESB and SSE. Those two utilities are very significant players in their own right and it is common knowledge that the ESB and Equinor are in a tie-up as well. What we have at the moment is 1.6 GW, which can act as a catalyst for offshore renewable energy, ORE. That grid connection is potentially there.

If the Chairman will forgive me, I will squeeze in one more question to Mr. Keating before we wrap up. What I am hearing is that Moneypoint in Clare can take the longest vessels in Ireland. Our airports can also take the largest aircraft. The transport commission notes that there is huge potential for Clare and the mid-west going forward with air and seafaring vessels being able to come in.

My last point impacts on all the witnesses. The minute they step their toes into the water beyond their ports, they must deal with foreshore licences. It concerns me hugely that the Foreshore Act dates back to 1933, with very little overhauling. Is that inhibiting what the witnesses are doing at the moment?

Mr. Pat Keating

It is. We have made a new foreshore application on a Foynes jetty that is almost three years in the running. Currently, foreshore applications can only be made after we get planning permission, so with the two systems added together, it takes nearly five years just to get the consents for marine infrastructure.

One of this committee's recommendations needs to be that we align ourselves with the planning process of eight weeks and an appeals process. It is unforgivable that projects such as this one could be delayed by five years. County Clare has lost out on key projects like those at Cahiracon and Kildysart, and this is multiplied many times over in Foynes. I am sure we will hear the same from Rosslare and Dublin ports. It is unforgivable that key legislation underpinning our foreshore has not been overhauled in 87 years. This committee needs to demand action on that.

We will be doing some work around that as well. I take the Deputy's point on board.

I thank the witnesses for their presentations. I wish them all well in their endeavours. I am sure they are in competition with each other, but from our perspective we would all like to see some degree of co-ordination and a successful outcome for the State and the country as a whole. I will direct my questions to Mr. O'Reilly. He has outlined the scale of the challenge. It seems quite a spectacular one in terms of the level of transformative change needed at the port. He says he would prefer staggered arrival times rather that the ships coming in on top of each other. At the other end we hear from hauliers and shipping companies criticising the current traffic management systems. There are issues relating to the vehicle booking system and the IT systems for pre-clearance, which are not actually in existence at some of the ferry companies.

My question relates to modelling and what we can expect to see on 1 January. This idea of potential traffic chaos, of lorries doing a loop around the M50 and the port tunnel, will worry a lot of people. What modelling has Dublin Port done and what is the expectation there? As regards what it is asking of the Government and this committee, what does it need us to hear to support it in its role in preparation for Brexit?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

As to what we expect, before coming here one does lot of thinking about what to say to a committee like this. Inevitably, one tends to focus on the challenges that are coming. Maybe what I should say is that I think Dublin Port is remarkably well-prepared for Brexit, given the scale of the challenge. The sheer physical infrastructure the OPW has put in and the amount of work done by customs and by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is enormous.

Reflecting on the comments I made, I was more worrying about the efficiency of what will happen rather than its effectiveness. The focus on efficiency comes from the sheer busyness of Dublin Port. It is an unbelievably busy port. It is two and a half times busier than the port of Rotterdam, based on the number of tonnes per hectare per annum. Likewise, it is also two and a half times busier than the port of Barcelona. The likes of that U-turning facility I mentioned must be understood in the context of contingency planning. All the UK is doing, as I see it, is planning for catastrophe with things like Kent passports and such. There is no doubt that there will be problems in January, but I believe the preparations that have been made will be effective and the types of contingency measures I set out are essential. Risk management is at the core of the industry. All of us within the ports are always looking at risk management and identifying contingencies. It would be bad if I came here today and was not able to answer the question of what happens if things go wrong.

The Deputy asked about vehicle booking systems.

We are developing Dublin Port. We have a master plan for 2040, though perhaps with the year ahead of us we should aim for 2041. The plan aims to double the volume of throughput on the same land footprint between now and 2040. That can only happen with an awful lot of digital technology. Brexit is accelerating the need for us to digitise Dublin Port. Very sophisticated systems are used to manage the internal operations of the three container terminals. We need an overarching system to manage the flow and traffic in and out of those terminals and the roll-on roll-off terminals. Nearly all of the land movement of goods in and out of the port happens during 60 hours of the week from Monday to Friday. It is still a very traditional working week. However, the ships come in and the terminals operate 24 hours a day. It is absolutely essential to push some of the activities of Dublin Port into the other 108 hours. That would give us access to the capacity of the Dublin Port tunnel and the national motorway network at times when it is not otherwise busy. That is the real challenge. We need digital technologies to do this. That will be a big focus of our future development.

In recent years our focus has been on concrete and steel. That will continue. In the last three years we have made €216 million worth of capital investment. Another €83 million of investment is planned for next year. The scale of investment in infrastructure in Dublin Port is absolutely enormous. That is necessary but not in itself sufficient. We also need to drive efficiencies through digital technologies. As I say, Brexit is really highlighting the need for this.

The Dublin Port Company's asks of the Government are to conclude a Brexit deal and to ensure the availability of staff. Have systems been stress-tested?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

We provide the infrastructure. I believe the systems have been stress-tested. The systems that will be the key to making all of this work are those of the Revenue Commissioners. An official from the Revenue Commissioners talked about an increase of customs entries from 1.6 million to 20 million.

The Revenue Commissioners do not have staff on-site. Is Mr. O'Reilly asking Revenue to commit to having staff there 24-7?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

There are huge numbers of staff on-site. However, if we are to drive efficiencies, we need to understand the key performance indicators. When ferries arrive with containers of food products or products of animal or plant origin, they have to go through a particular set of checks. We must understand the hourly capacity of that system and see how it runs so the hauliers and cargo owners can get a sense of what they need. That will allow them to have a more informed conversation with the ferry lines.

Better information and data about the processes are needed.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

These are the problems of success. We are looking to fine-tune the really superb preparations of a range of agencies.

Some 84% of Ireland's container and trailer traffic goes through Dublin Port. Dublin Airport has a similar pre-eminence. We need to get more traffic to the regions through Shannon Foynes Port, the Port of Cork and Rosslare Europort. My first question is for Mr. Keating. How would building a rail link and a road from Limerick to Foynes affect the Shannon Foynes Port Company's container capacity? How much additional traffic could it take? How much pressure could it take off Dublin Port?

Mr. Pat Keating

The road link is absolutely the more important of those two connections given the volume it could carry in comparison with a rail link. The rail link would serve a niche market. Reinstating it would allow our projected volumes to grow by between 5% and 10%.

What would be carried on the rail link?

Mr. Pat Keating

It could carry containers, bulk cargo or a mixture. However, the rail itself is just a single track. The infrastructure is a limiting factor.

By how much would the capacity of the Shannon Port of Foynes Company increase if the road link was established?

Mr. Pat Keating

In parallel with the construction of new infrastructure such as the deep-water quay, capacity could be increased by as much as 10 million tonnes per annum.

What is the current figure?

Mr. Pat Keating

The entire estuary currently carries 10 million tonnes. The Shannon Port of Foynes carries between 2 million and 2.2 million tonnes.

Capacity would be doubled. How many years would that take?

Mr. Pat Keating

That is the problem. The deep-water jetty would take at least seven years. It would have to go through the consent and procurement processes.

The committee will have to work on that. I have some questions for Mr. O'Reilly. Hauliers have been in contact with me and many other members. They frequently raise one issue. There are three competing terminals in Dublin Port. There is no vehicle booking system. The Port of Cork has one. It appears to be a huge source of frustration for the hauliers. They say that having such a system in place is the responsibility of Dublin Port Company.

The hauliers also note that two ferries arrive from Holyhead at 5 a.m. each morning, one from Irish Ferries and one from Stena Line. Both are chock-a-block with trucks. Mr. O'Reilly noted that ferries currently arrive in pairs, in four waves six hours apart. What is Dublin Port Company doing to put a vehicle booking system in place? How would this benefit our ferry connections to Europe? Mr. O'Reilly's written submission states:

The huge Brexit infrastructure in place is necessary but not, in itself, sufficient. It needs to be manned and operated on a truly 24/7 basis by State agencies.

That looks like a qualified criticism of the supports offered by the State to ensure the checks can run. Mr. O'Reilly suggests that hauliers and cargo owners should tell the ferry companies whether the current arrival times actually meet their needs. They are doing that. They say this is the responsibility of Dublin Port Company and Mr. O'Reilly as its CEO. Why is there no vehicle booking system? When will one be in place? What has Dublin Port Company done to avoid a situation where two ferries arrive at 5 a.m., chock-a-block? What is Dublin Port Company doing to develop container traffic through direct ferries to Rotterdam? That would cut down on our carbon footprint because it would not involve trucks. I ask Mr. O'Reilly to comment on a vehicle booking system, the arrival times of ferries and the development of a container business. Many hauliers are saying that the container storage facilities currently in place are wholly inadequate. They are spread around Dublin and are not located at the port. They say this is going to cause chaos.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

I will do my best. Regarding booking systems and container terminals, there is a big difference between the three container terminals in Dublin Port and the one in the Port of Cork. The Port of Cork owns all the equipment and operates the terminal. The three terminals in Dublin are operated by three private sector companies which are competing with each other. They have systems which are capable of being expanded to incorporate a booking system. The systems are unbelievably complex because of the amount of data they handle. A container ship might contain 600 containers. In the first instance, it is up to the individual terminals to put booking systems in place with the technology available to them, as the Port of Cork has done.

I assume these companies operate under licences issued by the Dublin Port Company. Surely the company can make it a condition of the licences that the terminal companies implement consistent and compatible booking systems. The hauliers say that at the moment it is like a zoo when the ferries arrive at 5 a.m. The hauliers come in at different times. They say that a booking system would make this much more efficient. This was a concern before the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, but it would make an enormous difference to our response to Brexit. Will Mr. O'Reilly commit to engaging with the terminal operators and looking at the licensing requirements with a view to putting a streamlined booking system in place?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

I will absolutely make that commitment. We are committed to the introduction of a swathe of digitalisation measures throughout the port.

Will Mr. O'Reilly commit to discussing this with the terminal owners?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

I am 100% committed to doing so. Unfortunately, some of those leases go back to the days of the British and Irish Steam Packet Company. They are 150 years old. The companies involved have very strong franchises.

I would suggest that the challenge of Brexit is so big that a way around will have to be found. It is not possible to descend suddenly into chaos on 1 January. Another issue is ferries trailing one another from Holyhead. These are run by Stena, Irish Ferries and others. What is Dublin Port doing about getting direct access to Europe and what is it doing with regard to the containers, the use of which would reduce the carbon footprint, from which everyone would benefit?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

With regard to direct routes to ports such as Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, there has been an enormous increase. There are new services and increased capacity. The month of October just past was the second busiest month in the history of Dublin Port, surpassed only by October of last year. Existing lines are regularly adding extra ships to their services. There is also a new container service starting.

What is Dublin Port doing to promote container traffic as opposed to lorry traffic on the sea?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

That is happening. The roll-on, roll-off ships that will go to Zeebrugge and Rotterdam will carry a maximum of 12 drivers. They will carry a mix of trailers and unaccompanied containers. That is happening.

Finally, I will ask Mr. O'Reilly about his discussions with the ferry companies with regard to staggering their arrival times. It appears, at this stage, that it is like the old bumper cars. They all come in at once and there is chaos.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

I do not disagree with the Chairman. That is the case. We are talking about it but, as the committee will appreciate, these discussions are immensely commercially sensitive. The companies are of the very firm view that the market requires something of them that is different from what the hauliers seek. One of the very good things about this session this morning is that it allows this issue to be aired. The airing of this issue-----

Is there a need for some form of public service obligation, PSO, levy to ensure that ferry times are staggered?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

I am familiar with the concept but I do not believe there is such a need. The market will work in this case. We will be working very strongly with the hauliers from the middle of December to encourage them to get the message-----

I suggest Dublin Port engage more with the hauliers. I will move on to my final question. What is the port company doing to ensure sufficient storage areas for containers?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

Is the Chairman referring to the storage of empty containers?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

We have been removing empty containers from the port because they take up too much space. The loss of 14.5 ha for Brexit is not good for our future capacity. We have a brand new depot under construction, which we have leased to a third party, at a place called Dublin Inland Port. It is a 40 ha site.

When will that be ready?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

It will be ready next year. I hope it will be open by September.

Does Mr. O'Reilly believe that Dublin Port will be ready for Brexit on 1 January?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

I believe Dublin Port is ready to go. I have concerns because there are so many things we cannot know.

I welcome all of our guests. I will direct my questions specifically to the CEO of the Shannon Foynes Port Company, Mr. Pat Keating. I spent 16 years involved with projects on the Shannon Estuary as a director and as a commissioner. I worked with Mr. Keating and I congratulate him and all of his team at Shannon Foynes Port for the outstanding work they are doing.

I have a couple of brief questions. Reference has already been made to the changing situation with regard to fossil fuels. These fuels have played a significant part in the profitability of Shannon Foynes Port as the power station at Tarbert runs on oil and the station at Moneypoint runs on coal, although both of those statements in the future will have to be in the past tense. With the unfortunate decision in the programme for Government not to support the Shannon liquefied natural gas, LNG, terminal, which I believe was very short-sighted, is there a threat to the ongoing profitability of Shannon Foynes Port? It was fairly dependent on fossil fuel business.

With regard to the region, by way of compensation for the loss of the jobs the LNG terminal was expected to create, the programme for Government said that the Government would investigate alternatives, invest and set up task forces to find alternative employment. Shannon Foynes Port will obviously be central to that. Mr. Keating has mentioned offshore renewable energy, ORE. Has the port company been contacted directly by Government with regard to progressing what was promised in the programme for Government? Are there plans afoot? Is there anything on which Mr. Keating can advise us in that regard because I raised the issue in the Seanad recently and I am as wise as ever?

On a positive note, because of its position on the map, Shannon Foynes Port may be in a position to benefit from Brexit more so than other ports. Brexit is obviously a threat but it also creates opportunities. Is there a case to be made for reopening the question of establishing a trans-shipment port somewhere along the estuary to deal with major imports that could then be redistributed to European ports? As Mr. Keating will know, we have the deepest natural port in Europe outside of Rotterdam. There are huge delays and long turnaround times in these European ports. Surely the Shannon area could take in larger loads before breaking them up and redistributing them to Europe, bypassing the UK. I will leave it at that.

Mr. Pat Keating

Our underlying business was absolutely very reliant on fossil fuels such as coal for Moneypoint. Even in the area of home heating oils, petrol and diesel, change is coming. As a commercial company, it is necessary to deal with change all the time. Returning to ORE, given our location, we are actually very well placed to capitalise on that potential. This potential may in fact be much greater than anything that has come before. Our ambition is to set up what is known as a marshalling port, which is a port that provides for the supply chain needed for the construction phases of floating wind farms. One then gets into the manufacturing of the floating devices or platforms themselves. These are primarily made of steel and concrete. They are basic enough but they are very big, chunky, heavy devices that require a lot of shipping and port infrastructure.

With regard to fossil fuels, there is a dip in current and short-term profitability, but in the long term, we are very well placed to capitalise on the move towards a low-carbon economy. ORE is one part of that. It is not just about electricity generation. Coming from that, there is also the potential to produce hydrogen or ammonia as new liquid fuels. This fuel will be more geared towards HGVs and buses. The Senator will have seen Dublin Bus ordering its first hydrogen-powered buses as a pilot scheme recently. Offshore floating wind energy goes hand in glove with hydrogen and ammonia production. With regard to the transition away from fossil fuels, in addition to generating energy at an ORE hub, there is the possibility to produce hydrogen.

Will Mr. Keating address the question on the trans-shipment port?

Mr. Pat Keating

In my statement, I mentioned the creation of a trans-shipment hub on the estuary. We almost have to go back to first principles in that regard. A base must be built up from a port that supplies the domestic market. There are no facilities entirely dedicated to trans-shipment in the world. A portion of domestic cargo is required to support it. We cannot run before we can walk. Given that we are the closest port to the US market, there is potential for trans-shipment between Europe, Ireland, North America and South America. As I have said, that is more a matter for the medium term. We need to get connectivity to the port, which is absolutely critical, sorted before we can move on to such objectives.

I welcome everybody and commend Rosslare Europort on its great work in obtaining a new operator for a direct ferry service. It will certainly go a long way towards dealing with the issue of Brexit traffic. I will address this point to Mr. O'Reilly. As the Chair mentioned, four ships arrive at Dublin Port within 45 minutes in the morning. Between 5.30 a.m. and 6.15 a.m., two ships arrive from Liverpool and another two arrive from Holyhead. When did Mr. O'Reilly last meet the Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

Is the Deputy asking when I last met the IRHA?

Yes. It is the hauliers' representative body.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

I believe the last time I had a meeting with the IRHA I was talking to Deputy Murphy herself.

That is right. That was in 2018. I reviewed the minutes last night. All of the points Mr. O'Reilly has made in his statement with regard to the shipping companies are points that were raised by the IRHA. Mr. O'Reilly was asked to request that the container terminal operators vary their opening times. He was also asked whether the shipping companies could reorganise their sailings. All of these measures were aimed at preparing for Brexit.

That was three years ago. All those points were made then. What progress was made on those points in those three years? From Mr. O'Reilly's statement, I assume none has been made.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

The ferries are still coming in at the same times today as they were three years ago.

Did Mr. O'Reilly make a request? I saw his very public spat with Irish Ferries.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

No, it was with Stena Line.

It was with Stena Line. The issue is we have public infrastructure, namely, Dublin Port, that is congested today and that is expected to be chaotic post Brexit. Mr. O'Reilly said in his statement that everything operates the same way as it did when the B&I was there. Is he absolving himself of any responsibility as the chief executive officer, CEO, of Dublin Port in that everything has stayed the same? Every day we hear from politicians and people like the witnesses that Brexit will change things and that we have to go with the change. What has changed about any of these things?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

To take the ferries, the ferry lines are still running on the same schedules as they were running in the 1980s.

I just pointed that out.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

I know. This is not something I can very easily change. Have I tried? Yes, indeed.

I do not have much time. What did Mr. O'Reilly try to change? What did he do? What proactive approach did he take to reorganise those things?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

We have been talking commercially and confidentially to the ferry companies, trying to get them to change. They are very adamant in their view.

Chairman, may I interrupt Mr. O'Reilly? It is not commercially sensitive. This is publicly owned infrastructure that depends on the economy of Ireland surviving in terms of our having free-flowing traffic for exports and imports. I do not believe it is commercially sensitive. Taking a public service obligation, PSO, to make those schedules work and to change them around is the type of proactive approach I am looking for. Let me hear what the approach was and whether it worked. Obviously, it did not.

Deputy Murphy's key point is on what has been Mr. O'Reilly's engagement with the ferries. How intensive has it been? What proposals has he put? We are facing Brexit so we have to think outside the box. Deputy Murphy is making a very valid point. We understand the commercial aspect but this is far bigger than that. It is chaotic at the moment.

Yes, every morning. Deputy Murphy knows it first hand. We would prefer if Mr. O'Reilly lifted that veil for a moment and let us know what action and engagement have taken place. Why have there been no changes in virtually the past two years?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

If I can respectfully disagree, I would not describe what happens in Dublin Port of a morning as being chaos.

Sorry, Mr. O'Reilly, I am an operator. I have operated out of three ports represented here today. It is chaotic. Mr. O'Reilly has not engaged with those who are using Dublin Port by his own admission, so how would he know what their opinion is?

Could Mr. O'Reilly give us the detail of his engagement with the ferries? I am not a haulier but hauliers have phoned me and I have met them. We have met them repeatedly. I bow to Deputy Murphy. She has treaded that board. Hauliers have phoned me exasperated by the fact ferries are coming in early in the morning all together. Suddenly there is absolute chaos. The hauliers are waiting hours. It does not even fit within schedules. They have no booking system. Can Mr. O'Reilly go through in detail what his engagement with the ferries has been? What are their objections? What would work? We cannot have a situation whereby we will put hauliers at risk. Many of goods they supply, to which Mr. O'Reilly made reference, are agricultural produce and perishable goods. Could he give us the detail on that?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

With respect, Chairman, I really do have to disagree. It is not chaos. I have had Ministers visit the port, probably half of the Cabinet in the previous Government were down in the port at 5 o’clock. That is the normal time I would invite guests down to have a look. It is not chaos; it is unbelievably busy.

Are the hauliers incorrect when they say it is chaos?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

I do not believe it is chaos. I have been working in Dublin Port for 30 years on and off.

Will Mr. O'Reilly explain the chaos? The chaos is trying to get one’s empty container delivered outside the port and trying to get back into the port to get another container on but the container terminal closes and the driver has nowhere to park and there are not toilet facilities. Further chaos is caused by four ferries disembarking at least 1,000 trucks every morning during the week which means the container terminals opening at the same time in the morning and all the traffic converging on to the M50 at rush hour. In any case we do not even have a traffic management plan, which I will touch on. Mr. O'Reilly was asked what engagement he has had with the ferry companies and what result was yielded.

It is important we find out in detail what the engagement has been.

We should let Deputy Murphy get an answer to her question.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

Deputy Murphy has brought up two issues and they overlap, namely, the ferries and the container terminals. Let me deal with them separately. The ferries come in of a morning. There are four ferries, two from Liverpool and two from Holyhead. The Deputy is correct on that. The Liverpool ferries are unaccompanied. They do not generate a lot of traffic-----

Not always-----

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

They do not generate a lot by comparison to the Holyhead ferries. They flow remarkably well. They have been doing so for years------

That is not the question. The question is what engagement has Mr. O'Reilly had to vary the sailing times. They do not flow. We accept they will not flow remarkably well post Brexit, post the transition period ending on 1 January next. We know now it is congested. What has happened to change it for 1 January?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

We have been and continue to talk to the ferry companies. The Deputy mentioned the article in The Irish Times. That afternoon I spoke to a gentleman from Stena Line who was quoted in the article.

Mr. O'Reilly said earlier that his attitude was that Brexit is happening, that it is going ahead. That was the same for the Mr. Grant. In 2018, in the minutes of a meeting held in Dublin Port all these propositions were put to Mr. O'Reilly. From 2018 to 2020, what has happened?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

Deputy, let me rely on my own experience. I ran a container terminal in Dublin Port, brought in a brand new service and as part of that new service offering we provided 24-hour collection and delivery services. It was financially ruined because there was no demand. There is a chicken and egg situation here.

Mr. O'Reilly cannot answer the question.

The question is what has been Mr. O'Reilly's engagement with the ferry companies during the past 18 months on preparing for Brexit and looking to alter the times so that we do not have a back-up of hauliers and trucks at Dublin Port? Will he deal with that specifically?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

My answer to the question is that there has been huge engagement with the ferry companies on all aspects of preparation for Brexit, particularly putting in new gates for customs and Garda immigration services. On the issue of ferry arrival times, the ferry companies are adamant that their current timings are what their customers want. It is completely at variance with what has been said to the Chairman, so I am caught between a rock and a hard place.

Not at all. Mr. O'Reilly is not. He is the CEO of Dublin Port. He said he is caught between a rock and a hard place, but what did he do with the information? Did he wait to come here today, a month out from the end of the transition period, to tell us that the ferry companies will have to engage with the hauliers whom he does not engage with, to get those timetables shifted? Is that his answer?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

My answer is that we have been engaging with the ferry companies.

But Mr. O'Reilly yielded nothing.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

We cannot force ferry companies to change.

What has the engagement been about? If he cannot, has he spent three years talking-----

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

We cannot force them. If I attempted to change the slots of a ferry company, I have no doubt we would be up before the courts.

It appears from that statement alone that Dublin Port is not an independently operated port and there will be a huge problem there from 1 January. It will be very significant.

I have one more serious question that needs to be answered. Who will be in charge on 1 January when the traffic chaos ensues? Who will be the go-to person with whom the buck stops?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

On 1 January when the trucks start moving in and out of container terminals and ferry terminals, there are mixed authorities.

I want only one name in respect of a co-ordinated traffic management plan - not that it is mixed. Mr. O'Reilly will tell me it is Dublin Port, the Dublin Port Tunnel-----

Three members wish to come in.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

There are operations managers in Dublin Port and co-ordination people from among the different State agencies. There are eight different sites.

Will Mr. O'Reilly come back to us with details on who will be the responsible person?

The significance of this is that Dublin Port Tunnel cannot be blocked up, legally.

I understand there is a traffic management plan to deal with that, which is wholly inefficient. It is not good enough if someone is inside the port and looking for someone outside the port, or vice versa. My recommendation to the committee is that there is a need to have one person heading up a traffic management plan. Equally, I refer to the removal of the barrier from the Dublin Port Tunnel, which is outrageous because it causes 3,000 trucks to stop each day, each expending a litre of fuel.

We will take that on board. We ask Mr. O'Reilly to come back to us with a response. What he is telling us is unacceptable. He must come back to us regarding a solution in respect of the ferry companies varying their times with the hauliers.

I refer to my previous points regarding the terminals.

That is fine, but I am conscious that other members want to contribute. I call Deputy Ó Murchú.

I thank all the speakers for their comments. I am going to follow up on some things already put to Mr. O'Reilly. We are looking at the gauntlet of Brexit. Deputy O'Rourke also raised issues in respect of the Revenue Commissioners. At one stage, I thought Mr. O'Reilly may have been seeking a greater level of resources. He said that the IT systems have been stress-tested in respect of the Revenue and that could be stood over.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

As best I know.

That is fine. I am going back to what was asked of Government. Hearing that Dublin Port tunnel could be used as a sort of drive around and inefficient parking system frightens all of us. Does Mr. O'Reilly have any information - and this could also be a matter for Mr. Carr - regarding any changes that might be happening, including relevant numbers, concerning people seeking to move goods directly from Europe or using the land bridge? We are in a Brexit situation and Michel Barnier has said that it comes down to the next couple of days on whether there is going to be a deal. None of this is going to be perfect, but it could be much more imperfect.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

Regarding the land bridge, there are direct services from Dublin Port to Cherbourg, which go on alternative days, and an equivalent service from Rosslare Europort to Cherbourg. There is also now a connection from Rosslare Europort to Dunkirk, and we were delighted to see that. There is a real issue of geography here. Once the land bridge is lost, it really is difficult for driver company services and Rosslare Port is undoubtedly the best place for this to happen.

We have no notion of the numbers and market wants.

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

The number spoken of regarding the land bridge is usually something in the region of 150,000 to 175,000 loads per year. In the publicity concerning last week's announcement, and Mr. Carr would know more from Rosslare Europort, some 50,000 to 60,000 trucks might use the Dunkirk service. There are many variables. Regarding the direct delivery of goods from Dublin into continental European, there is enormous increased capacity. It is all unaccompanied trailers or containers, and I have no doubt that if demand goes up, then the ships will follow. I suspect, however, we will not be seeing many direct driver company services from Dublin.

That is fine. I will put the same question to Mr. Carr. A similar question concerns how feasible it will be, then, to stagger times regarding ferries coming in. Whatever the rights and wrongs may be of what has been done, I accept there are difficulties concerning this issue. It will involve a conversation with all stakeholders, however, including hauliers and the representatives from the ferry companies, etc..

Mr. Glenn Carr

Yes, Mr. O'Reilly is right that approximately 150,000 to 175,000 trucks are using the land bridge now. The whole essence of the service going to Dunkirk is to tap into that market. On average, each ship would take 130 trucks per sailing, so we are looking at approximately 40,000 trucks coming in and 40,000 going out. However, one of the positive things regarding DFDS is that company's capability to ramp that service capacity up, if needs be. In Rosslare Port, we certainly have the capability to do that. Regarding negotiations with these companies, they want to provide the best possible services to customers to attract business, and there are consultations, therefore, not only in respect of the port but also the market. The schedule which has been agreed for DFDS services reflects what the market wants and our capability to ensure we can deliver the service to the shipping line, which is equally critically important. There is no point being in a port just to be held up on the ship for some two hours.

I accept that, and there needs to be flexibility across the board on this issue.

Mr. Glenn Carr

Generally speaking, we are lucky in Rosslare Europort because we have capacity, and we have plans to develop a master plan for more capacity. We are not a 24-hour operational port, although we are open 24 hours. All these factors play into scheduling services.

We will have to conclude these questions, Deputy Ó Murchú, because I have two other members who want to contribute.

The only other aspect I would like to know about concerns asks to the Government. There are worries, so what needs to happen now?

Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly

The single ask we have concerns moral suasion. Regarding what the committee is hearing from the haulage industry, we have been saying this very publicly since that article appeared. It is in our interests and everyone's benefit.

I refer to an issue brought up by Deputy Crowe earlier regarding foreshore licensing. I am sure that the witnesses will be interested and probably aware that the proposed marine planning and development management Bill is progressing. It will implement a single and more efficient marine planning system, and input from any of the ports would be welcome regarding that process.

Mr. Keating referred to the importance of the reopening of the rail connection between Shannon and Foynes, and the importance of the offshore renewable energy, ORE, industry. Those are two projects which I firmly support and that are positive for that region. The loss of liquefied natural gas, LNG, and other fossil fuels will be more than made up for by the renewable energy industry and the potential that sector brings to this country. There is no future in fossil fuels whatsoever. On what Mr. Keating spoke about regarding Shannon Foynes Port, therefore, I ask Mr. Carr and Mr. Kenny, possibly, to comment on whether there is scope for rail freight as part of Rosslare Europort. Is Rosslare Europort in a position to scale up to take advantage of the ORE industry and the 5 GW in the Irish Sea? I ask that because there is a great deal of land around Rosslare Europort and we have heard much talk about road-based freight, which will always be part of the movement of freight in this country. There is no doubt about that aspect. If we are going to reduce transport emissions and issues with air quality, however, we must concentrate a great deal on rail. Rail transport is the future, and 2021 has been proposed as the year of rail in Europe. I am interested in hearing the views of the witnesses regarding Rosslare Europort and rail freight.

Mr. Glenn Carr

I will take those aspects separately, and start with offshore energy. I look after rail freight as part of my remit. Today was about Brexit, so I did not submit information regarding offshore renewable energy. Offshore wind, however, is absolutely our next target in Rosslare Europort. It is the best geographically positioned port in respect of where the development of offshore wind resources is happening along the south-east coast. There will be floating offshore wind energy, but that is some way away. Our initial target with the climate action plan is to put in place the existing planned offshore wind farms.

No port currently has the required facilities for what is expected to be developed. However, we have engaged extensively with the offshore wind market and with the developers of offshore wind projects, and we are now taking plans to the Government and the Department to develop Rosslare Europort as the offshore wind hub for the country. I believe strongly that we are the only port which has the potential to be developed. Investment is needed, but we have the land and road connections.

Turning to offshore wind and rail freight, the offshore wind energy companies want to assemble at the quayside and then go straight back out. There is positive news regarding rail freight, because we have just commissioned a final report on the development of rail freight. There are great opportunities for rail freight to be developed here. It has been underutilised and probably undersupported. Investment is needed in that area and, again, we are also taking plans on board regarding developing rail freight, part of which would involve connections to ports. We are already connected to Dublin Port and the Port of Waterford, but we would also like to be connected to the Port of Cork and to Shannon Foynes Port.

It is more challenging for Rosslare Europort, because there is only a single line running up to Dublin. In addition, the current Waterford to Rosslare rail line is not in operation.

From a policy perspective, that would have to be examined. There is nothing to prevent rail freight being developed into Rosslare, and we will play our part in that, however we have been concentrating on growing our roll-on roll-off business. We see a great opportunity for the port and region in offshore wind. That is our focus. I see rail freight as developing more for other ports, particularly as Waterford is so close to us. It is lift-on lift-off.

I am sorry to interrupt Mr. Carr but I must allow one final speaker in.

I thank the witnesses. I congratulate Mr. McGettigan on his appointment as CEO of the Port of Cork and thank him for his very important contribution. I have two specific questions. Will he speak about the roll-on roll-off opportunities for Cork in avoiding the land bridge? His presentation spoke of the border control inspection post. Will he expand on that in the context of EU-Atlantic connectivity and the relationship between hauliers and container traffic? I thank him for his work and wish him every success.

Mr. Eoin McGettigan

On the roll-on roll-off, currently we take about 5,000 loads weekly. We could increase that to 35,000 with our existing facilities. The border control inspection point is related to that. If we had one in Cork we could receive goods from outside the EU, which would be the UK then. That is something that people from Cork would seek from Government.

Our new container terminal can handle 50% more volume than we currently have, which would be about another 100,000 container annually. Those containers could come directly from the Continent avoiding the land bridge.

I thank Mr. McGettigan. I ask that the committee comes back to this particular matter because of the importance of ports policy.

We will have further hearings on the whole area of ports early in the new year. We thank all the witnesses for attending today's engagement.

The joint committee adjourned at 1.33 p.m. until 4.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 8 December 2020.