Opponents to the proposed 390m cruise berth in Dún Laoghaire Harbour arrived by foot and by boat to the East Pier yesterday. 

Organised by Save our Seafront, the rally heard that the future of the harbour ‘hangs in the balance’ as Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company pushes forward plans to provide berthage for super sized cruise ships up to 320m long.

SOS Rally Oct 15

Protesters against the planned 390m cruise berth gathered on the East Pier of Dún Laoghaire and as a flotilla. Photo Gillian Mills  

Claiming the plan is a ‘dangerous financial gamble’, the group believes it is linked to a proposal to build ‘hundreds of exclusive’ apartments on St Micchael’s Wharf thereby privatising large parts of the harbour.

Over 150 submissions lodged with An Bord Pleanála will be heard at an Oral Hearing beginning on Wednesday October 14. They include a submission from the Combined Waterfront Clubs (DMYC, RIYC, RStGYC & NYC) who say the proposed cruise berth would have the effect of dividing the sailing area within the harbour into two separate zones. They add they are not objecting to cruise liners visiting the harbour, nor to the harbour company’s ambition to attract additional revenue for the upkeep and maintenance of the harbour.

Future governance of the harbour could change hands however under the Harbours Bill 2015 which makes provision to allow the transfer of control of five designated ‘Ports of Regional Significance’ (including Dún Laoghaire) to local authority control.

The Bill provides two transfer options:

a) A Ministerial power to transfer the shareholding of the existing port companies to a relevant local authority and provide for certain matters relating to the future administration of any such company

b) A Ministerial power to dissolve the existing port companies and transfer all assets, liabilities and employees to a relevant local authority

Save our Seafront has produced an ‘alternative vision for the harbour’ and proposes a strategy to develop lesiure, tourism and heritage with the least possible enviromental impact.

Wtih 1.5 million people on its doorship, it believes Dún Laoghaire could become a ‘unique marine experience’ with commercial and leisure entities and include a Diaspora Centre linked to the Maritime Museum and the Lexicon library.

It also proposes developing the harbour to attract international sailing events (Tall Ships and Volvo Ocean Race) and creating a ‘marine cluster’ of new slipways, repair yard, sail-making loft and a marine service base to encourage marine and ancilliary activity.

Meanwhile, Dublin Port company is investing €230m to redvelop the Alexandra Basin to accommodate ‘next generation’ cruise ships. The company has the support of Fáilte Ireland and Dublin City Council and has been recommended for co-funding under the Connecting Europe Facility. 

SOS believes two large and expensive cruise ship facilities within five miles of each other ‘makes no sense; however it is in favour of creating a niche market for smaller ships at Dún Laoghaire that can use the existing facilities. It claims that ‘modest development’ of the pier would enable vessels up to 200m to berth alongside.

In 2010, promoters of the cruise berth plan established the Dún Laoghaire Cruise Stakeholder Group comprising Dún Laoghiare Rathdown County Council, Dún Laoghaire BID Company and Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company. The 2015 cruise season welcomed 22 ship calls of which four were small ships that berthed at Carlisle Pier. Eighteen larger vessels over 300m anchored in deep water outside the harbour. Total capacity was expected to be 100,000 passengers and crew.

The eight-year project is projected to cost €18m. With repeat dredging required to remove silt build up in the appraoch channel and turn circle, this figure is skewed and is not outlined in the plan, SOS contends.

Project proposals:

  • 1,200m long dredged approach channe (10.5m CD) north of the harbour, running on an east-west alignment
  • 500m diameter turning circle 400m north of the harbour entrance
  • 850m long dredged berth access channel from the turning circle through the harbour mouth to the berth
  • 390m cruise berth comprising a centrally located 120m long quay and four large tubular piles to the north and south of the quay extending 435m northwards from the east marina breakwater
  • 185m access causeway connecting the quay to the shore at the east marine breakwater
  • pedestrian link from the causeway to the ferry terminal plaza, including a public boarwalk facing west overlooking the marina
  • Transporter parking facilities