The Port of Cork is seeking to maximise its potential with the new development at Ringaskiddy, writes Vincent Champion
Last year, the Port of Cork was finally able to launch the new Cork Container Terminal development in Ringaskiddy, an €80M project that will move container handling much closer to the sea than the existing riverside Tivoli Container Terminal. The move will decongest Cork city centre and allow dockside facilities on the River Lee to be redeveloped for other uses.
The development is being funded through an awardwinning financing structure comprising Allied Irish Banks, the EIB, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), EU Connecting Europe Facility funds and the port’s own resources. ISIF is investing proceeds from the sale of the state’s shareholding in Aer Lingus.
Brendan Keating, the port’s CEO, said: “This development will secure the future for the Port of Cork, and ensure the trade gains are translated into significant economic benefits for the people of Cork, the Munster region and the national economy.”
The new facility, which is due to go into operation during 2020, will be able to cater for much bigger vessels, with a 360m berth with 13m depth alongside, and a 13.5-ha yard initially. The construction contract was awarded to BAM Civil Ltd, the Irish affiliate of the Dutch Royal BAM Group. The dredging, which is now 90% complete, is being performed by ABCO Marine. Phase 2 includes a further 200m ‘dogleg’ berth and additional back-up land to cater for more ro-ro and project cargoes.
The new terminal is a step change from the existing facility at Ringaskiddy, and has been a long time in the making. More than 10 years ago, the Irish Planning Board (ABP) turned down a €140M proposal for a much larger (37-ha) terminal in a different part of Ringaskiddy, because of the environmental impact and the high cost of access.
This led to a strategic review and the identification of a smaller site adjacent to the ferry terminal. This was later adopted by the government as part of its Nation al Ports policy, and the plan was accepted by ABP in 2014.
Henry Kingston, the port engineering manager, explained that the earlier plan was predicated on the extraordinary “Celtic Tiger” growth rates of the 2000s, but the bubble burst in 2008-09. In the past few years, the recovery has been gradual, and the port’s traffic projections are hardly overambitious.
Last year, container throughput (Tivoli and Ringaskiddy) reached almost 230,000 TEU (up 6% on 2017). Kingston says that the forecast is 270,000 TEU a year by 2025, rising to 300,000 TEU by 2030. Although the new deepwater berth could cater for vessels in the 8,000-10,000 TEU range, this is not the target market, and certainly Cork has no plans to offer transhipment services.
A key aim is to continue to offer cost-effective handling and hinterland connectivity for the port’s only deepsea caller, Maersk’s weekly CRX Central American service, for which Cork is the first port of call in Europe (at Ringaskiddy). This is a fast service for the banana trades, and is operated with relatively small cellular vessels.
Kingston also pointed out that the new terminal will be able to cater for two feeder and/or intraEuropean shortsea vessels at the same time, something that is not possible at Tivoli, where vessel size is limited by river depth and
width anyway (‘Corkmax’) and 24-hour operations are not possible. This is important for securing Ireland’s connectivity to the Continent.
Increasing freight uptake on Brittany Ferries’ Cork-Santander ro-pax services from Ringaskiddy indicates that more hauliers are avoiding the UK landbridge option, and, in a Brexit context, this trend is expected to increase.
Ireland remains heavily reliant on trade with the UK (mostly via Dublin and Rosslare ferries) and this helps explain why the UK acts as a landbridge for accompanied freight with the Continent. However, driver shortages and the possibility of border checks post-Brexit will encourage a transition to unaccompanied freight directly between Ireland and the Continent, both ro-ro and lo-lo, and this will provide a springboard for growth at Ringaskiddy.
Container services are expected to transfer quickly from Tivoli to Ringaskiddy and mobility and connectivity are a key part of the planning consent from ABP.
To this end, the port has already invested €1M in a vehicle booking system at Tivoli with its existing TOS provider, Softpak of the Netherlands, along with an automated gate from Visy. The new automated gate, which includes a customs clearance verification system worked out with Irish Customs & Revenue, is the first of its kind in Ireland.
The port studied a number of gate systems in Europe in search of best practice, and opted to take up the Felixstowe approach as the most suitable for its requirements.
“We have to ensure a smooth transition from Tivoli to Ringaskiddy as a key part of our mobility management commitments to ABP,” said Kingston. An automated gate complex with VBS links to the TOS will be a key part of this, and the port wants to ensure it can provide a seamless service from day one.
Meanwhile, the new gate has improved the service at Tivoli, leading to fewer delays and shorter truck turnaround times, as well as assisting in claims management. Data insight into the pattern of truck calls will provide an important tool for managing the future flow at Ringaskiddy.
The new Cork Container Terminal will be equipped with two post-Panamax cranes from Liebherr Container Cranes in Killarney, the port’s customary crane supplier. The cranes were ordered in October last year and factory work on them began in January. They are scheduled for delivery in April next year.
Tivoli is a straddle carrier direct operation, and this will be continued at the new terminal. However, the yard is being designed with reinforced runways to accommodate a switch to yard cranes in the future, and the new TOS will incorporate this flexibility. It is not yet clear whether the port would opt for RTGs or RMGs, but one of the aims is to lower the environmental impact.
The port has some experience here since the container terminal at Ringaskiddy is equipped with one Liebherr E-RTG run off a cable reel. The berth is used by the Maersk and Hamburg Süd vessels deployed in the CRX service. The ships are geared, but the berth is equipped with two Liebherr mobile harbour cranes.
Ringaskiddy is accessed by the N28 highway, and planning permission was received last year to upgrade it to a motorway (M28). No rail access is planned. National policy with regard to rail has changed since 2008, reflecting changes in Irish Rail’s policy with regard to freight.
Cork’s current hinterland extends to a radius of around 100 km and, although that might increase, EU policy recognises 300 km as the general threshold for efficient rail service to/from a sea port (less if there is sufficient aggregation).
Kingston explained that, due to the size, layout and scale of the Irish road and rail network, the TEN-T policy recognises that rail is not an efficient mode for distribution for containers. Furthermore, in the event of moving large volumes of freight between Cork and Dublin, there are numerous weekly shipping connections between the two major commercial hubs. Port of Cork commissioned a study with Booz & Co on rail freight transport in Ireland, and the report confirmed the above findings. They were accepted by ABP during the planning application.