Michael Casey’s opinion article on public sector reform (Monday, 1st March, 2010) cites Dublin Port Company among a list of organisations where “inefficiency and mediocrity” have “become embedded in the system and valuable assets, owned by all the people, remain underutilized.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Dublin Port Company, the body responsible for running the vital national infrastructural asset that is Dublin Port has, in the last 25 years, become a highly efficient and profitable company paying a dividend to its shareholder, the State.
Almost twenty five years ago Dublin Port and Docks Board, as we were called then, was bordering on bankruptcy. The company employed almost 700 people, and handled just over 6 million tonnes of trade annually. Today the company employs 150 people and has an annual throughput of almost 27 million tonnes. Back then, there was no competition within the port and it was plagued with industrial relations difficulties and strikes were a weekly occurrence in the deep sea sector.
Over many years with the support of its directors and co-operation of its staff the company set about making the necessary changes that created the current strong efficient position of the company.
Just by way of example, in the past eight years alone the company’s wage bill has been reduced from an unsustainable €21 million, to under €12 million. Addressing our cost base has meant that Dublin Port Company’s charges to the unitised trade, which represents 80% of our trade, are 10% lower today in nominal terms than they were in 1988. Competition within the port has also been introduced with eight competing terminals now operational.
Today, there is consensus that Ireland’s recovery will be export-led and competitiveness will be crucial to this recovery. Dublin Port and Dublin Port Company are key to both. The €300 million the company has spent on infrastructural improvements over the past 15 years, without recourse to exchequer funding I might add, have ensured that the port can efficiently play its part in facilitating the export-led recovery. We never lose sight of our important role in facilitating €35 billion in trade flows through the port and the 4,000 jobs supported by activities in the Port’s estate. Indeed, with one eye always on the future we have focused on the next phase of investment in the port, the €300 million Dublin Gateway project (again not requiring exchequer support) which is currently before An Bord Pleánala for consideration under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.
The recently published Indecon report on the future of Dublin Port, undertaken under the National Development Plan, showed our “hidden” role in driving the real trading economy. It concluded the strategic importance of Dublin Port located at the heart of Ireland’s largest market supporting jobs and saving millions of tonnes in CO2 emissions by virtue of its location. The board of Dublin Port Company is committed to working on implementing its key recommendations which are that retaining Dublin Port in its present location, together with on-site expansion will deliver the highest net present value in cost/benefit terms to the State.
All this information was available to Mr. Casey as it is in the public domain in a variety of sources including our statutory accounts and annual report available on the company’s website. I trust that Michael Casey, on now knowing the facts, will join the ranks of those who recognise the hugely vital and positive role Dublin Port Company plays in the life of the Irish economy.
Dublin Port Company
Date Published: Thursday 04. of March 2010