I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 to 174, inclusive, together.
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 with all investments funded from port revenues. This is similar to other ports in Ireland which receive no Exchequer funding and must fund all their infrastructure developments through their own resources, borrowing or through EU grant funding.
There has been a significant increase in shipping services from Rosslare direct to the Continent as a result of Brexit. Rosslare reports huge demand for these services with an increase of around 400% in freight units through Rosslare when compared to the same period last year and 2019.
In the context of these developments and to enhance Rosslare Europort’s trade competitiveness, Iarnród Éireann and Rosslare Europort’s strategic investment Masterplan for the port over the coming years has been completed. The Masterplan includes investment plans for €42 million, which will be funded from the port's own revenues, over the period 2021-2026, in customer facilities, port infrastructure, freight facilities, port assets, new technology and linking the new entrance of the port with the proposed new port access road.
Additionally, to support the free flow of import and export trade through Rosslare to GB, there has been significant engagement, preparation and investment in the State Agency facilities required at Rosslare. Temporary Customs, Agriculture and Health facilities were constructed by OPW in the lead up to a possible no-deal Brexit in 2019. These facilities are located outside the port at Kilrane, on the N25 approaching Rosslare Town. These facilities are intended as interim facilities pending the construction of the permanent facilities within the port itself.
My Department continues to liaise closely with other Government Departments and agencies, in particular OPW, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Revenue Commissioners, Department of Health, HSE and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and with Rosslare Port and Iarnród Éireann, in relation to the design and development of the permanent facilities. In August 2021, OPW submitted a planning application to Wexford County Council in respect of these planned facilities.
This investment along with the Rosslare Europort Masterplan will ensure that the port is fully capable of meeting the controls required by the UK becoming a Third Country and of meeting the needs of future shipping capacity growth. Rosslare Europort and Iarnród Éireann are working together with the OPW on the coordination of works under both the port's Masterplan and OPW’s own plans for the State border control facilities. The parallel plans will require close liaison to ensure that the port remains fully operational while construction works are ongoing.
In relation to other business opportunities, Rosslare Europort have advised the Department that they are progressing their plans for the development of Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) facilities at the port and that they will be applying for Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding under the CEF call opening later this month.
With regard to a free zone at Rosslare Europort, in discussions with officials, Rosslare Europort has advised that the idea is at an early concept stage in the port with the focus at the moment on progressing plans for ORE facilities. Further work on the free zone proposal will be required by Rosslare Europort and Iarnród Éireann setting out a worked out analysis of the benefits, if any, of any such proposal.
The development of a free zone at Rosslare would be a matter falling within the broad area of industrial policy and would require liaison between my Department, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Finance.