Dublin Port is currently undertaking an ambitious capital infrastructure development programme in the Alexander Basin to facilitate larger sized vessels and provide additional cargo handling capacity to cater for our growing economy. While this project is on-going I am keen to help mitigate any adverse impacts on the tourism industry, including cruise tourism. With these concerns in mind, I met with Dublin Port in March. The Company outlined to me its capital development plans and rationale for prioritisation in the context of Brexit, as well as the specifics with regard to cruise berths.
At this meeting it was explained that as part of the ABR Project, Alexandra Quay West will be under construction for at least two years from 2021 to 2023. Given the space constraints, cruise berths will be limited for a three year period from 2021 to allow the necessary construction work to take place. During this period freight ships that normally berth there will have to relocate to Ocean Pier West, the berth on which large cruise ships are currently handled.
Dublin Port Company have assured me that it will operate a full cruise volume in 2019 and 2020 but while cruise calls will be facilitated from 2021 to 2023, they will be limited to circa 80 ships per annum. When the work is completed at Alexandra Quay West cruise volumes are expected to revert towards 150 for years 2024/2025.
The Company has already secured planning permission to construct new berths for cruise ships on the North Wall Quay Extension. The cost benefit analysis currently underway in respect of these additional berths (due for publication later this year) will form a solid basis for discussion on how this vision can be brought to fruition.
Through my wider stakeholder engagements, I have encouraged port and cruise industry stakeholders to take maximum advantage of other options available during the period of construction at Dublin port, when a reduced number of berths will be available for cruise calls. While Dublin Port is important in attracting cruise liners to Ireland through Dublin, other benefits can accrue to other ports around our coast.
In the meantime, Cobh continues as a dedicated cruise berth and will remain so post-Brexit. I also welcome the fact that the Port of Cork is working with Belfast Harbour to see if they can take some of the additional business that may be lost as a result of Dublin Port's infrastructural works. In addition, Fáilte Ireland continues to support the development and promotion of the cruise tourism sector.