Rosslare Europort is unique among the State-owned ports, as it is not a commercial company operating under the Harbours Acts but is instead operated on a commercial basis as a division of Iarnród Éireann. Technically, the port forms part of the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbours Company, which is a 19th-century joint-venture company, consisting today of Iarnród Éireann on the Irish side and Stena line on the Welsh (Fishguard) side.
The status of the port, and whether its current status potentially inhibits its development, was considered in a strategic review, commissioned by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants. Their report concluded that the creation of an independent port authority would be extremely difficult, given the port's complex legal structure. Instead, it was recommended that the port remain in public ownership and that the possibilities for increased private sector involvement be investigated.
In order to assist Iarnród Éireann's overall consideration of how best to move forward, the company then engaged consultants to assess market interest. The assessment was largely positive in terms of the potential for increased private sector investment in the port; however, it did identify possible implementation issues due to the complicated legislative basis of the port.
Following that assessment, the Department sought and received detailed advice from the Office of the Attorney General on the matter. That advice identified a number of legal issues with any such proposal and those issues remain under consideration by the Department.
I am, however, satisfied that Rosslare Europort as a division of Iarnród Éireann is effectively managing operations at the port and looking at the potential of the port to develop further and take advantage of any new opportunities. The port is targeting growth and new business opportunities and recently received the approval of the Iarnród Éireann Board for a strategic plan to grow the port’s business.
Iarnród Éireann and Rosslare Europort briefed my Department late last year on the company's plans for strategic development of the port over the coming years. The strategic plan includes investment plans for up to €25 million in customer facilities and port infrastructure, port assets and new technology. The port is also engaging with a number of potential new shipping customers to supplement existing operators and offer greater choice to freight and passenger business.