Belfast Telegraph

TDs to meet Dublin Port over cruise industry fears

One of the cruise ships that docked in Dublin Port recently
One of the cruise ships that docked in Dublin Port recently

By Lisa Smyth

An Irish parliamentary committee will request a meeting with Dublin Port over fears of the impact on the cruise industry from changes to the port resulting from Brexit.

The All-Ireland Cruise Ship Action Group appeared in front of the committee to outline its concerns about the effects on the economy of planned changes to the way Dublin Port operates.

Now the Oireachtais Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport has said it will write to Dublin Port Company to ask for it to meet with representatives from the tourism industry across Ireland.

The company is to cut down on the number of cruise ships docking while it carries out major works to increase its freight capacity in response to Brexit.

Some 150 cruise ships arrived in Dublin Port last year. Many of those cruise companies also choose to dock twice on the island, either in Belfast or Cork.

The Republic's Transport Minister Shane Ross has reportedly claimed that Cork and Belfast will fill the gap created by the changes to Dublin Port.

However, the All-Ireland Cruise Ship Action Group rejected this when it appeared in front of the committee yesterday. Lorcan O'Connor, managing director Carroll's Group, which owns two tourism stores in Belfast, said that Dublin offers a unique opportunity to cruise ships due to the proximity of the city's airport to the port.

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"There have been suggestions that the cruise ships will just come to Cork and Belfast without going to Dublin, but unfortunately that isn't what we're being told by the cruise ship companies, as much as we would love that to happen," he said.

He also said Dublin Port Company has not given clear assurances that capacity will return once the works are completed and he said the tourism industry and economy in Northern Ireland will suffer as a result.

"We are hearing from the cruise ship companies that they are already experiencing problems booking spaces in 2012 and 2022," he said.

"For example, we are being told that of the three days in a week that are already available to book, one of those days is unavailable in case the space is needed for freight. The information we are getting at the moment is a bit vague. We are being told they will grow the business and then the language changes to 'we hope'.

"The problem with all of this is that for us to market Ireland as a tourist destination, it's a five-year plan and the uncertainty is damaging that. We have two businesses in Belfast, one in Castle Place and one in Donegall Place, and we have a very strong commitment to Belfast, but it is a struggle to grow the business there.

"There isn't enough investment currently and the planned changes at Dublin Port are only going to set back tourism in Belfast even further."

Mr O'Connor also welcomed a commitment by committee chair Fergus O'Dowd to write to Dublin Port and to Mr Ross.

Belfast Telegraph