Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
528. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his consideration of a report (details supplied) on the future of Rosslare Europort has concluded; if not, when it will conclude in view of responses to parliamentary questions that acknowledge the restrictions the ownership model places on future development; if the report will be published; and if a debate in Dáil Éireann on the matter will be facilitated in view of importance of the port after Brexit. [9144/19]
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 commercial basis as a division of Iarnród Éireann. Technically, the port forms part of the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbours Company, which is a 19th-century joint-venture company, consisting today of Iarnród Éireann on the Irish side and Stena Line on the Welsh (Fishguard) side.
The status of the port, and whether its current status potentially inhibits its development, was considered in a strategic review, commissioned by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants. Their report concluded that the creation of an independent port authority would be extremely difficult, given the port's complex legal structure. Instead, it was recommended that the port remain in public ownership and that the possibilities for increased private sector involvement be investigated.
In order to assist Iarnród Éireann's overall consideration of how best to move forward, the company then engaged consultants to assess market interest. The assessment was largely positive in terms of the potential for increased private sector investment in the port; however, it did identify possible implementation issues due to the complicated legislative basis of the port.
Following that assessment, the Department sought and received detailed advice from the Office of the Attorney General on the matter. That advice identified a number of legal issues with any such proposal and those issues remain under consideration by the Department.
As such, there is currently no plan to publish the report to which the Deputy's question refers although a redacted version of the report was released under Freedom of Information in 2017.
I am however satisfied that Rosslare Europort as a division of Iarnród Éireann is effectively managing operations at the port and looking at the potential of the Port to develop further and take advantage of any new opportunities. The port is targeting growth and new business opportunities, and recently received the approval of the Iarnród Éireann Board for a strategic plan to grow the port's business. This includes investment plans for up to €25 million in customer facilities and port infrastructure, port assets, and new technology. The Port is engaging with a number of potential new shipping customers to supplement existing operators and offer greater choice to freight and passenger business. Iarnród Éireann and Rosslare Europort briefed my Department late last year on the company's plans for strategic development of the Port over the coming years.
Finally, Brexit will have implications for a number of key ports and airports, including Rosslare, and Rosslare continues to work closely with my Department and a range of other relevant Government Departments and Offices in preparing for Brexit.
In this context, my Department has met Rosslare Port management on a number of occasions over the past year, most recently last month, about the infrastructural requirements of the port in connection with Brexit. My Department has also been meeting ferry and shipping companies regarding their plans for dealing with the challenges of Brexit.
I do not accept that the ownership structure is impeding the development of Rosslare Europort and, as outlined above, a significant investment plan and preparations for Brexit are underway. Accordingly, I do not consider it appropriate to have a debate in the Dáil on this matter at the current time.