World’s second largest harbour to be deep-sea gateway of Ireland

The launch of the €86 million Cork Container Terminal by Port of Cork Company will play a role in regenerating Cork City and the surrounding region

The site investment in the Port of Cork is the largest investment of any Irish port over the last 100 years. Picture: John Allen

Having invested €86 million in its new Cork Container Terminal which opened in April, the Port of Cork Company will phase in full operations over the coming months. The site investment is the largest investment of any Irish port over the last 100 years and represents the largest single investment in marine infrastructure in the port’s history.

“Cork Container Terminal will be the most modern terminal of its type on the island which, combined with deep water, also means that it can accommodate the largest container vessels that visit Ireland, Conor Mowlds, chief commercial officer for the Port of Cork Company, said.

“The first ships operating out of there are transatlantic container ships. We now uniquely have a direct route between Cork and Ireland and the US with ICL trading directly to Philadelphia and down to North Carolina,” he said.

The launch of Cork Container Terminal means that Cork is Ireland’s deep-sea gateway. As well as handling ICL’s Cork to the US service, it facilitates the weekly Maersk Costa Rican service which transports Fyffes bananas.

“Cork is now well placed to displace cargo from congested ports on the east coast. The launch has been hugely pivotal for the Cork economy,” Mowlds said.

While the Cork Container Terminal was designed to be in place at the same time as the M28 motorway, the completion of which has been delayed until the end of the decade, the Port of Cork decided to press ahead with the container terminal opening while also keeping the Tivoli terminal open.

The ever-increasing size of vessels and new technology ensuring quicker turnarounds were the key reasons behind the investment, Mowlds said.

A total of 150 people are employed directly by Port of Cork, which is the world’s second natural harbour after Sydney. A recent study identified that 40 companies use the port, supporting 50,000 jobs in the region with a combined turnover of €145 billion annually, the chief commercial officer said.

“What we faced in the last 24 months was a lot of uncertainty with Covid and Brexit which was a hugely disruptive piece, but it has now worked out as a positive as we have direct routes into the heart of Europe that we didn’t have before,” he said.

“We now have regular direct runs into Zeebrugge and Antwerp, called RoRo, Con-ro. Shippers want stability in their supply chains and Brexit disrupted that. Our service gives supply chain confidence and is a huge game-changer.”

Mowld sees a big move away from driver-accompanied freight to unaccompanied freight due to driver shortages and also the desire for drivers to drop off their loads and go home at night. “We are in a position to support that,” he said.

The Dubliner sees Cork as a “fantastic” place in which to do business. “There is a cohesive business community. The chambers of commerce in Cork and Cobh have provided phenomenal business support. I can’t speak highly enough of both of them,” he said.

“Cork is a hub for pharma and med tech and is at the heart of Ireland’s agri-food industry. We also have two universities providing top-class graduates. We also have Ireland’s only refinery at Whitegate.”

“We are very well positioned to act as a key hub for Ireland’s move towards offshore renewables and at the same time support the move to net zero with our developed presence in transition fuels,” Mowlds said.

Looking to the future, the Port of Cork will focus on developing Cork Container Terminal and its connectivity. “Our plan is to move away from our city base, from being a river port to a deepwater port. That will facilitate a regeneration of Cork city and we are going to play a big part in that.”