Thursday, 27 June 2013
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
307. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he expects to see the development and expansion of sea-ferry transport from this country to various UK and/or continental destinations in the future with particular reference to meeting increased demand and requirements and market development in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31394/13]
Ireland offers a diverse range of maritime links to and from the State to facilitate trade and tourism providing vital income streams to the Irish economy. Over 90% of Ireland’s trade moves by sea and there are currently 22 shipping operators providing a mixture of daily to weekly scheduled shipping services from Ireland. This includes 4 companies providing year round scheduled passenger services between Ireland and the UK and France. Activity in the sector has recently proved positive. Irish shipping and port activity in terms of trade rose by 2% in the first quarter of 2013 when compared to the corresponding period of 2012 according to the latest figures produced by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO). While this is positive it is to an extent the result of the poor weather conditions and the resulting requirement of the agricultural sector to import feedstuffs.
My Department through its agency the IMDO works closely with all existing operators and continues to promote Ireland as a location for new services. Failte Ireland is also involved in active promotion and marketing of sea access routes to Ireland in their role of promoting Ireland as a high quality and competitive tourist destination. However, it must be remembered that all shipping companies servicing routes to and from Ireland are commercial companies. Any new initiatives to enhance services must be market driven, as it is not government policy to fund international shipping services as this would be contrary to EU State Aid and Competition Law.