Thursday, 18 October 2007
Drogheda Port Company.
It is my intention to give approval for Drogheda Port Company to enter into a joint venture agreement to develop a new port facility at Bremore in Fingal county, subject to the enactment of necessary legislation. I am advised that an amendment to the Harbours Act 1996 is necessary to enable the port limits of the Drogheda Port Company to be extended to include Bremore and to enable me to convey approval of the joint venture agreement. The joint venture proposal is in line with established ports policy. Subject to the necessary further feasibility, commercial and regulatory work, it also presents a unique opportunity to provide significant additional port capacity in a prime location on the east coast. It is intended to develop the new facility in a number of phases. The actual capacity of the first phase will be determined by the joint venture partners in the light of the further work referred to which has yet to be carried out.
As I indicated, an amendment to the Harbours Act 1996 will be necessary to enable the joint venture to be formalised, but the feasibility work I referred to can be put in hand in the meantime. More generally, the existing legislation is more than ten years old and requires updating. My Department has made substantial progress in preparing the heads of a new harbours Bill to support further implementation of ports policy and update existing legislation. I propose to seek early Government approval for the drafting of the Bill and intend to pursue its enactment as quickly as possible.
The joint venture will help to promote competition while relieving congestion at Dublin Port. The proposal is being advanced as a stand-alone project and is not dependent or linked to any relocation of capacity from Dublin Port.
I welcome the Minister's reply. As a Deputy for County Louth — I realise the Minister represents part of the adjoining county of Meath — it is important to reiterate my support for everything the Government has done on this issue. A modern deep-water port such as that to be constructed at Bremore is critical for the infrastructural development of the country. I will fully support the proposed legislation. When does the Minister intend to bring it before the House? I understand it will take approximately one year for Drogheda Port Company to go through the required process, having received commitments from the Department of Transport yesterday or the day before. It is all systems go for the new port which will make a significant contribution to the country's economic well-being, particularly counties Louth and Meath.
I thank the Deputy for his support. While I cannot outline a specific timescale, I intend to examine the progress of the Harbours Bill with a view to ascertaining if it can be completed and brought forward relatively quickly. If it can, I will table the relevant amendments. If the legislation is likely to be delayed, I will proceed with something separate in order to amend the Bill. The necessary assurances and undertakings have been given.