The opening of a new terminal at the Port of Cork is planned for March next year which will greatly increase capacity for containers and reefer containers.
The port had a capability of 120 plug points on the terminal for reefers until 2012 when Maersk and Fyffes decided to make the Port of Cork the primary port of call for shipments of bananas and pineapples to Ireland which resulted in 70-100 reefers of bananas and pineapples into the port each week.
“To accommodate this volume of fruit we built a new temporary terminal to accommodate the large vessels,” explains Paul O’Regan, Harbour Master and Chief Operations Officer at the Port of Cork. “It is a very modern terminal, we looked at the advances Maersk had made in reefer technology and incorporated those into the terminal, the reefer monitoring is still done by a local company on behalf of Maersk but all of the infrastructure and super structure was put in by the port.”
Going forward the new terminal will have the capacity for 500 plugs with an initial overflow of 100. This has been driven by a phenomenal increase not only in fruit and vegetables but in the dairy and pharma industries switching to reefer containers and which has seen the use of reefer containers grow by 200% in the last 3 years.
“We are hoping that a lot of the fruit shipped by Fyffes and Keelings from South America will be shipped into Cork and then redistributed on feeders over to the north of England in to ports such as Liverpool. Traditionally that fruit is coming into the south of England and is being trucked all the way to the north, but as we now have the capacity to support shipments here, we hope this will change and it could also be a faster way to distribute the produce.”
“We would also like to capitalise on fruit and vegetables coming from Spain. There is a lot of fish transported from Ireland to Spain on reefers, these reefers come back full of fruit and vegetables for the Irish market.
“There has been a lot of work done on possible Brexit scenarios, Brittany ferries established a Ro-Ro route in June last year from Cork to Santander to get around the land bridge issue (goods having to cross England to get to Ireland) there was not a lot of traction in the first year but it is really picking up now with a lot trucks carrying reefer cargo. So we would like to be able to support that.”
The Dublin market is the strongest market and will need to be supplied from a reefer point of view and will most likely have to continue using the land bridge especially for the more perishable produce which needs to reach the market next day. But for produce with longer shelflife there is a possibility to ship it through Cork, but Paul stresses that no one knows what those opportunities may be yet and everyone is hoping there will be a deal which will be more beneficial, but if there is no deal they are ready for it and have the capacity.
Logistical connections are good from the port and a mobility management plan will be developed around the terminal where slots can be booked to get on and off the terminal as in other ports, this gives a great service level to the hauliers, so they can see when they can get on terminal and prevent delays.
“Roads going into the port area are busy just as with other city ports,” said Paul. “There are plans on the table for a new road to be built which would make the road all the way from Belfast to Cork without a single traffic light, which is very positive. Ireland is not a big country and you can drive from Cork to Dublin in just 2 hours which is a very short time span. The road network is going to be crucial and yes we do need upgrades, but they will come, maybe a few years behind the opening of the terminal but we will manage traffic until then.”