PORT of Cork chair John Mullins will step down from his role on February 26 having served eight years over his two terms since 2013.
His tenure has proved hugely successful, with great progress being made on relocating port operations from the city docks and Tivoli to new facilities in Ringaskiddy.
Speaking to The Echo, the outgoing chair said he has enjoyed his tenure. “Having grown up in the city I wouldn’t have thought when I was in North Mon that I would have been chairman of the Port of Cork. I worked really well with the team and my fellow directors. The one thing that will stay the same is that the Port of Cork will outlive many directors and many staff members. It was a time of transition and it was great to be part of it.”
Mr Mullins will depart his role as chair with the Port of Cork currently thriving.
“We were coming out of a bad recession and had to rebuild traffic and trade. We have done that very significantly. We are probably after moving from a position where we had profit of €2 million or €3 million to now be recording nearly €11 million in profit,” Mr Mullins said.
Mr Mullins is pleased with the way his colleagues at the Port of Cork have handled the huge threats posed by both Covid-19 and Brexit respectively. “Cruise lines have suffered since the outbreak of Covid-19. Hopefully, they will be back in 2022 as strong as ever. We have got very strong bookings already for next year which is positive.
“Between April and October, we would have had practically a cruise line every day.
“We would like to see the tourism sector and the hospitality sector getting back on its feet and hopefully, the port can facilitate that as we get back to normal,” he added.
“We were really concerned in April and May about containerised traffic and there were problems with boxes in China. We ended up with 10% more containers last year than the previous year. People buying online was a big part of that. We did very well from a health and safety perspective. All our employees have been great. There is a great sense of pride and unity there,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said Brexit was something they knew was going to happen but did not know what form it would take.
“We didn’t know how hard it was going to be. We have handled it very well and it has opened up new opportunities. We have a brand new service to both Roscoff and Saint-Malo in Brittany, freight only. When I came in we had one ship for six months of the year for the holiday season. We now practically have one ship coming in nearly every day. It has been a very busy time,” Mr Mullins said.
The outgoing chair has overseen significant changes in infrastructure since he took up his role in 2013.
“The new container terminal in Ringaskiddy will be up and running in quarter three. The containers in Tivoli will all be gone. They will all be in Ringaskiddy. They will be fully operational before the end of the year.
“The expectation is that in Ringaskiddy, the larger ships which go to North America will go directly to the new container terminal which will be twice as quick getting the containers off and on. It is state of the art equipment going in which will make everything more efficient.
“We have had an investment programme of well over €100 million. We have received great support from the various stakeholders,” he added.
Mr Mullins said their migration down the harbour will provide a considerable boost to the city centre in terms of urban redevelopment.
“Tivoli and the South Docks will now be freed up in the future for urban redevelopment which will be great. In many ways, us moving down the harbour will now facilitate urban redevelopment.
“The Port of Cork is now essentially in the county so it is a big change from where we started back in Custom House.”
The outgoing chair is very enthusiastic about the future of the Port of Cork, citing the redevelopment of Marino Point and the many new routes as very positive developments.
“I grew up in the 70s when we were reliant on heavy industry in the city. We have completely changed over the space of two generations. Hopefully, we will have the infrastructure in place which will ensure we will be resilient for any economic changes in the future. We are always looking forward,” Mr Mullins said.
“A thriving Port of Cork is good for all. If our customers are doing well, we are doing well.”
Mr Mullins will now concentrate on his own work in the solar business Amarenco. He hopes he has left a lasting legacy in his role as chair of the Port of Cork.
“I have no regrets. I hope the legacy we have left behind is that we have freed up a lot of land that is going to add to the population of the city in due course. It will make certain parts of the city more attractive and make it a hub of activity. In three or four years time, we will see that as a vibrant part of the city.”