Importance of ports becomes clear as Brexit reality dawns

Importance of ports becomes clear as Brexit reality dawns

CLdN Freight Compound at Ringaskiddy in the Port of Cork. The importance of maritime matters to this island nation are often overlooked.

THE lure of broadcasting is hard to resist.

There is an attraction that pulls me back, particularly to radio, my favourite medium, where one is in direct contact with the listener, no visual distractions such as on television.

It is sound, mixing voices and effects, building into word pictures to illustrate a story for the listener which makes radio such a wonderful medium and so widespread these days, with many broadcasting stations and the world of podcasts.

I am waxing a little lyrical this week because I am returning to the airwaves. My maritime series, THIS ISLAND NATION, ended its run in September, which followed very many years on SEASCAPES. This week I’m starting my third series — the MARITIME IRELAND RADIO SHOW which will be broadcast on 16 community radio stations around Ireland — in Dublin (4), Galway (2), Mayo (2), Dundalk, Athlone, Clare, Limerick, Kilkenny and three in Cork – CRY104FM, West Cork FM and Bere Island Radio, as well as on four podcast platforms through Apple, Spotify, Mixcloud and Soundcloud.

There is also a programme website and a newsletter service for listeners to accompany the show.

Except in times of crisis, controversy or emergency, the national media does not devote a lot of space or broadcast time consistently to maritime matters. This is even though, as an island, we depend for 95 per cent of our exports and imports on the lifeline of the seas around us.

The Echo is an exception, standing out through its constant interest in maritime matters. The readers of this column have provided great support with suggested storylines, ideas, information. Cork has a great maritime tradition.

The movement of shipping through the port is vital to our well-being. That is shown by the work which the Port of Cork company is doing to cope with the impact of Brexit, about which we can expect more revelations in the coming weeks.

This week’s warning that potatoes coming from the UK, which are widely used in chip shops, might be restricted, surprised a lot of people who weren’t aware of the ramifications of previous Government decisions about staples of the Irish economy.

As a reader wrote: “will we now see more effects from the decisions to close down Irish sugar beet production, our flour mills and so on.”

That reader has a point — particularly about the vital supply lines across the seas.

Driving into Ringaskiddy on Sunday I saw the CLdN — Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Navigation — ro-ro ferry, Melusine, berthed. That company was founded in 1928.

Back in April, as the first ravages of the pandemic hit our shores, the Port of Cork agreed a new weekly service with the company to Zeebrugge.

“This direct freight link with Europe will greatly support our efforts to keep supply chains moving during the Covid-19 pandemic. It also reinforces our commitment to supporting businesses in the region and preparing for any eventuality Brexit may bring,” said Port CEO Brendan Keating.

Though, understandably and perhaps not particularly noted by the public, the service has been leaving Zeebrugge every Friday to arrive in Cork on Sundays, returning Tuesday to arrive in Zeebrugge again every Thursday. It underlines how vital ships and seafarers are to this island. Without them, Ireland would be in serious difficulty.

These supply lines have to be not only maintained, but developed.

Launching the service CLdN said: “It is new to us and driven by customer and market demand. We are convinced, even at this unprecedented time, that Ireland’s exporters will once again show their Celtic spirit and make this new route a success.” That prediction has been proven correct, with the company’s decision to add a second weekly service “to cope with the increasing demand on the current route.”

Conor Mowlds, Cork Port’s Chief Commercial Officer, stresses “the importance of keeping supply chains maintained, with more and more cargo looking to avoid the UK land bridge.” That is because the likelihood of huge delays in transiting across Britain is leading the urgent need for more direct shipping routes from Ireland to Europe. Irish ports must gear up for this.

That is the forward planning which our island nation needs for the future and Cork is, as it has been in maritime tradition, once again to the fore.


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