An Bord Pleanála has just rejected the plans presented to them for an expansion of Dublin Port. A couple of years ago, they made a similar decision in relation to an expansion of facilities at the Port of Cork.
What all this means is that both Cork and Dublin are full and won't be expanding in the near future. Even if plans for expansion are restarted, it will be 5+ years between the start of the planning process and the provision of facilities.
Of the country's major ports, only Waterford has significant capacity available.
With a return to economic growth, that could be used up quite quickly.
As an island nation, this seems an extraordinary. Flying freight in and out of the island would be prohibitively expensive. We aren't going to see a rail link in the time frame either.
All this could act as a severe brake on our growth come the end of the decade.
So what's to be done?
Do we need a government port strategy that takes the expansion decision away from the local port authorities? Or would that be an over-reaction considering both Dublin and Cork did try to get expansion in place.
Do we need to get earlier involvement so that projects become adjusted so that they are more likely to be accepted?
Considering the major reason the Cork proposal was refused was a lack of road and rail infrastructure at the site proposed, do we need a much more integrated approach to the whole concept of port development?
And perhaps most critically, what do we do in the medium-term to mitigate the problems of capacity?