The Galway Harbour’s designation as a “port of regional significance” will be vital to paving the way for its major redevelopment into a hub for tourism and cruise liners.
The designation was included in the National Ports Policy which was published by the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar this week.
The policy sets out a road map for the future of Galway Harbour, highlighting its proposed future redevelopment - as a hub for maritime tourism, the cruise-line industry, off-shore energy, and continuing petroleum distribution - within a national context.
It also points out the current limitations of the existing docks as it accounts for just 1.2 per cent of national freight traffic due to the constraints of being a tidal port.
The National Ports Policy has been welcomed by Galway politicians and Galway City Council who feel it is an endorsement of the plans to redevelop the area into one of the State’s major harbours.
Galway city manager Joe O’Neill said the recognition of the port’s potential “to contribute to the local and regional economy is very heartening”.
“It reflects the objectives contained in our city development plan,” he said. “This is also a positive development for the Harbour Company’s plans for redevelopment. It underpins the importance of these plans in terms of securing a sustainable future for the port.”
Fine Gael Galway West TD Brian Walsh agreed and added that the policy statement “recognised Galway’s massive potential for maritime tourism and leisure facilities”.
Last month, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Varadkar were told, at a meeting with Dep Walsh, that the success of the application under Article 6(4 ) of the EU Habitats Directive, could depend on the wording of the policy statement.
Dep Walsh explained that it was “hugely important from the point of view of the application that a particular reference to the strategic importance of the port was included in the National Ports Policy”.
“I am pleased there was recognition of this and that the statement has been included in the policy document precisely as required,” he said.
The policy also contains proposals to transfer
the Government’s shareholding in the Harbour Company to a “more appropriate local or regional structure”.
However city manager O’Neill said it was “far too early to speculate on what this would mean” as the necessary legislation is unlikely to be published before 2016.