The application in hand from Dublin Port Company for permission to reclaim 25 hectares of the State foreshore derives from the need of Dublin Port to cater for increasing levels of throughput. It is acknowledged that Dublin Port is and will continue to be the premier port in the country. Throughput has risen from 6.1 million tonnes in 1989 to 15.2 million in 1999 and is forecast to reach 23.7 million tonnes by 2007. It handles by far the largest proportion of the country's unitised freight, some 71%, and has a high prospective growth over the coming seven years.
An expert EU co-financed assessment of port access requirements nationally concluded in 2000 that Dublin will increasingly face capacity constraints over the next ten years. Over the period to 2006, immediate capacity constraints will be felt in the unitised modes and ongoing expansion of facilities will be a priority. If land for expansion is unavailable, the port will have to concentrate its developments on increasing the utilisation of existing land and facilities and possibly forgoing existing lower value trades which are space intensive.
Diversion of traffic to other ports, including other east coast ports, must be among the alternatives considered in order to avoid the creation of bottlenecks limiting the flow of imports and exports so vital to the sustained growth of the economy. That being said, expansion of capacity-handling and berthage will be inevitable over the coming years.
It is my policy to encourage shipping operators and the ports industry in general to maximise utilisation of capacity outside of Dublin and enhance competitiveness. In order to strengthen the contribution of east coast ports I have decided that both Dundalk and Wicklow will shortly become commercial State port companies joining Dublin and Drogheda. Together with Rosslare and Greenore this will strengthen the capacity of the east coast ports industry in servicing the central and southern shipping corridors. A direct shipping service which commenced last October between Drogheda and Rotterdam will also help to reduce the pressure on Dublin Port and I am encouraging other ports and shipping operators to follow this lead.
In addition, so as to assist in the further development of port policy, I recently announced the establishment of an expert task force on transport logistics, under the chairmanship of Dr. John Mangan of the Irish Management Institute, which will consider,inter alia, the prospects for increasing the volume of port traffic which is transported by rail and the transfer of port generated freight traffic from road to rail, including the development of rail head facilities at existing ports, and establish realistic targets to be achieved; the prospects for transport of rail freight by night-off peak; opportunities for traffic diversion, including by rail, by pipeline, including relocation of oil tank farms to other less congested ports outside Dublin.
The group will also seek to identify other imaginative proposals to reduce congestion and make port access-egress more efficient; identify cost effective options for the movement of traffic through Dublin.