Minister talks tough

DUNDALK Port could be among a number of smaller ports around the country that face being downgraded or closed.

DUNDALK Port could be among a number of smaller ports around the country that face being downgraded or closed.

Fears for the future of Dundalk’s commercial port arose after comments made by Minister for Transport Leo Varadker to the Irish Independent.

Mr Varadker is considering a plan to close or consolidate some of the country’s cargo ports, however, no specific locations were mentioned by the Minister.

He said that some of the smaller ports would be turned into harbours for fishing and water sports or would be temporarily closed. Mr Varadker said that the proposal would be considered on a port-by-port basis.

In 2002 Dundalk Port became a semi-state limited company owned by the State. According to Dundalk Port CEO Captain Frank Allen, Dundalk Port is “self-financing”.

“We have put a few ideas to the Department. One of the ideas is to set up Dundalk Port as a private company. Staff and Management would lease it off the council for ten years,” he said.

“We are making money outside of the port through diversification. To date we have had no response to our proposals.”

In addition to Dundalk, ports in Drogheda, Galway, New Ross, Arklow, and Waterford are also under threat if the Minister decides to move on the proposal. The Ports Review and Colm McCarthy’s report of state assets both recommend the consolidation of ports.