National Ports Policy

National Ports Policy
The Irish Maritime Development Office has played a vital advisory role to the Irish maritime and port sector and to the government. Operating under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the IMDO have contributed to the creation of a cohesive development strategy for national ports facing an evolving and challenging market-place.

In 2013, the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport issued the National Ports Policy, which addressed the dichotomy of the challenges and the opportunities facing Irish Ports. The core objective of the National Ports Policy is to facilitate a competitive and effective market for maritime transport services. A long-term trend in ports and shipping is increased consolidation of resources in order to achieve optimum efficiency of scale.

This has knock-on effects in terms of vessel size, berthing depth requirements and the type and scale of port hinterland transport connections. With consideration to international sector development and the demands of the Irish maritime freight sector, the National Ports Policy published in 2013 introduced a clear categorisation of the port sector under the headings:

Tier 1 Ports of National Significance

Responsible for 15% to 20% of overall tonnage through Irish ports, and

  • Demonstrate clear potential to lead the development of future port capacity in the medium and long term and as required.

Dublin Port Company, Port of Cork and Shannon Foynes Port Company are categorised as Tier 1 ports.

Tier 2 Ports of National Significance
  • Responsible for at least 2.5% of overall tonnage through Irish Ports;
  • Have clear demonstrable potential to handle higher volumes of unitised traffic, and
  • Have existing transport links to serve a wider, national marketplace beyond their immediate region.

Port of Waterford and Rosslare Europort are categorised as Tier 2 ports.

Tier 3 Ports of Regional Significance

The remaining commercial ports fit into this category. This includes the five smaller State-owned commercial port companies of Drogheda, Dun Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross, Wicklow and all other ports handling commercial freight. The long term development of these ports has been transferred to relevant local authority control.

National Ports Policy 2013 Report.
National Ports Policy 2013 PDF  
National Ports Planning & the Harbours Bill 2015

The President of Ireland,  Michael D. Higgins signed the Harbours Bill 2015 into law on Christmas Day 2015.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to provide a legislative basis to the 2013 National Ports Policy recommendation that control of the five designated Ports of Regional Significance should be transferred to more appropriate local authority led governance structures.

The process of transfer is underway and the Harbours Bill 2015 also provides for a possible future transfer of control of Dundalk port from Dublin Port Company to Louth County Council. The possible future transfer of Bantry Bay harbour to the control of Cork County Council and Galway Harbour Company to Galway County Council is currently at a point where a date has yet to be determined. 

For more in-depth details of the act, please access this link.

Since the publication of the report, a number of ports have instigated infrastructure improvements, upgrades and service improvements. An outline of those plans are available below:

Dublin Port Company
Port of Cork Company
Shannon Foynes Port Company
Galway Harbour Company