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Cork Port development - 15th November, 2005

Dear Sir,

The Port of Cork Company recently released a plan showing some outline proposals for the development of a container port at Ringaskiddy. The sight of a small diagram in that proposal causes me same alarm. It shows plans to in-fill a considerable area of Monkstown Bay in the lower harbour. In fact, Cork does not currently need extra acreage to develop even as a very major port. It just needs to value the resources it already has. That little diagram makes me think that the existing resources at Cork may not be fully appreciated and that, possibly, a strategic error may be about to be made in the port's development.

Nature, while generously giving Cork a beautiful and large harbour, has been more parsimonious in providing areas of level ground, near sea-level, which are also in immediate proximity to deep water. Such land is a real pre-requisite for port development and at Cork it's in short supply. Because of this limitation, a large shallow-water area was in-filled to about a meter above high water at Ringaskiddy years ago. Much of this new land is now used for the parking of newly imported cars and vans. A nautical college has been built on part of it and a toxic waste incinerator is planned to be built hard by it. Given the great potential of Cork as a port, it is important that strategically priceless land like this should only be used for primary port-related activities that cannot take place elsewhere: car-parking and incineratian do not qualify, the marshalling of containers does. Only when the existing acreage is properly and fully utilized would it become necessary to "make" more acreage by in-fill.

The ideal port location is of course at a "triple-point" location where deep-water interfaces not just with the road system but also with rail. Ringaskiddy is not at a railhead. But such a "triple-point" location does exist in Cork Harbour -at Marino Point - ¬and co-incidentally this large site has recently seen its resident industry close down and is now lying idle. Surely this site is the most appropriate one to build Cork's new container port on. In heavy transport terms a railhead is a priceless resource, and the transport of containers by rail takes lorries off the roads - all of which has road safety and environmental benefits for everyone. Amazingly it appears that this superb site may be about to be passed over in favour of an inter-tidal mudbank in Monkstown Bay.

The development af Cork's downstream container port should be at Marino Point and, if and when that facility is at full capacity, then the existing land resource at Ringaskiddy should be developed. Containers could be readily shuttled between these two nodes on self-propelled lighters. Any further future development of capacity might then have to be accommadated by expanding into the inter-tidal zone; but such an action is certainly not needed at this point in history.

Cork's location - at the point where the North Atlantic meets Western Europe - gives it huge potential as a port. This suggests that the existing upstream container port facilities - with the railhead at Tivoli- are also best retained in public ownership for the futute of the port.

Cork can be proud of the fact that it is a sensible commercial city (incidentally, it's current status of ''European Capital of Culture" goes somewhat against the grain of this, it's natural genius). The city's inhabitants have for many centuries understood that putting butter on bread is not just a mechanical but also a commercial transaction. Historically, such commerce has involved the use of their harbour to get that butter to market. Sensible Corconians will naturally approve of the correct and careful strategic development of their harbour and the benefits of increased trade. But they have a responsibility to disapprove of developments that are simply wrong. Regrettably, from toxic incinerators to the possibility of poorly thought-out container port development, Cork's lower harbour may be setting up bear - long into the future - the bitter fruits of today's shabby strategic thinking.

Yours sincerely,

Stan Reynolds

The Old Schoolhouse
Toames West
Co. Cork


Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment
Bishop's Road, Cobh, Co. Cork
Tel - 021 481 5564      Email -
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