Docklands Sale Warning
A warning that selling the Limerick Docklands site for commercial development would be disasterous to Limerick and the region, was issued by Liam Woulfe of the Limerick Port Users Group, this week.
"The docks, if disposed of, cannot be replaced," he said as he challenged Shannon Foynes Port Company to stop the sale of all or part of its 44-acre landholding on the docks.
"Either develop the port facilities or hand over their management to a public I private partnership who would preserve the docks for the city of Limerick," he said.
Last month, Shannon Foynes Port Company advertised two prime dockland sites for sale by tender and also invited "expressions of interest" in the entire 44-acre site.
At the time, the company's CEO, Brian Byrne, said €100m was needed to reinvest in their core business and the Government had made it clear they had to raise this money themselves.
Depending on' the response, Mr Byrne said, it might be possible to realise enough money for their reinvestment programme without selling the entire site.
"We might have a happy situation where we can take out some of the land not critical to operating the docks. But until such time as the market has been tested, we don't know what valuation is locked in there," he said.
But this approach was slammed this week by Mr Woulfe on behalf of the port users.
"The port users have no difficulty with Shannon Foynes Port company selling off non-core, non-dockland property elsewhere to finance their 'dreams' of building an international container ferminal, 80 kilometres out at the head of the estuary," he said.
Limerick port is profitable, said at the launch of the Limerick Port Users campaign under the slogan: Don't remove me.Improve me.
Throughput was running at 550,000 tonnes and the cost implications for the current users of the port of switching to Foynes or any other location would be "disastrous", he said.
If Limerick were to stop operating as a port, Mr Woulfe said, it would lead to the loss of 200 direct local jobs and €20m a year to the local economy.
He accused Shannon , Foynes Port Company of being "totally irresponsible" in failing to consider the implications of the docks closure on current users.
"It is akin to larnrod Eireann selling off Limerick's Colbert train station and the land around it for development and moving the terminus to Limerick Junction. I wonder how would their customers feel about such a move," he said.
The closure of Limerick port would also impact on householders and communities along the N69, Mr Woulfe warned, as it could entail an extra 44,000 truck journeys a year on the road to and from Foynes.
He made clear that the 13 port users in the group' were united and passionate in their determination to keep Limerick port open. Already the group have made their case to local representatives and intend to make their arguments to Government ministers.
"It is important for the economic future of Limerick city and the MidWest that Limerick port continues as a trading port," Fine Gael Dail candidate Cllr Kieran O'Donnell said after the launch.
He called on the port company to engage with the port users.