Dublin port wants to infill more of bay area

View of Dublin port: a doubling of throughput is predicted over the next 30 years, along with a growing transfer of freight to rail

FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor

DUBLIN PORT is considering “options” to infill a significantly larger area of the bay than previously proposed under its latest masterplan to cater for a projected doubling of throughput over the next 30 years.

An “issues paper” prepared by Jacobs Engineering also envisages infilling part of the Liffey estuary to provide more berthage as well as relocating the port’s cruise liner terminal to North Wall Quay.

It says the sequencing of development “has not yet been decided” and would be influenced by many factors, including cost and the need to minimise impact on port business and the environment.

Environmental studies, site investigations, planning approval and other consents – such as a dredging licences and foreshore permission – would all be required, and could take two years.

Two new berths for cruise liners are proposed at the western end of the port, near East Link Bridge, so that ships and their passengers would be closer to the city. This would require dredging to provide a “berthing pocket” for the liners. A new visitor centre of “good architectural quality” is envisaged for North Wall Quay.

The options paper also includes a second bridge, or tunnel, to link the north and south quays. A tunnel is favoured as its spoil “could be used in some of the proposed reclamation works within the port”.

Dredging of Alexandra Basin is flagged as requiring a licence from the Environmental Protection Agency as “it is known that the basin bed material is heavily contaminated”, according to the authors.

It is also proposed to build a high-level bridge over East Wall Road linking this area of the port with a proposed car import storage compound and the existing oil storage area, which is being retained.

New rail spurs to serve unitised freight yards are also envisaged as the authors anticipate that transfer of freight to rail “will increase steadily through the 30-year plan”.

An area of infill, roughly twice the 21 hectares (50 acres) proposed under the port’s controversial “Dublin Gateway” scheme, is included in the plan to provide six “ro-ro” (roll-on, roll-off) berths.

This would be “much less intrusive” than the scheme turned down by Bord Pleanála as none of the new berths would be located at the eastern end, significantly reducing the impact on wading birds.

On the south side of the river, the “lo-lo” terminal used by Marine Terminals Ltd would be retained and its throughput “enhanced” by investing in new container-handling equipment.

A large area of infill to the east of it would require the relocation of two tern colonies to a new site downstream from the port , where a wildlife observation platform is also proposed.

Planning consultants MacCabe Durney Barnes, in their “issues paper”, say the port’s masterplan “provides an ideal means…to influence future planning policy” by setting out the rationale for its existence.

They suggest the State-owned port company should seek to have its expansion “designated as being of over-riding national importance” to overcome issues relating to further infills of the bay.

“The port’s location in Dublin Bay raises difficult ecological issues”, the planning consultants concede, referring to the impact of conservation designations in the Tolka Estuary under the EU habitats directive.

Noting that 24-hour port activity is “not compatible with residential use”, they say the port “really has no option but to firmly resist the incursion of residential” into the Pigeon House Road area.

The public consultation process continues until May 31st. See www.dublinport.ie/Masterplan/