For Written Answer on : 10/05/2023
Question Number(s): 50 Question Reference(s): 21437/23
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Transport if he will support the National Development Finance Agency in working alongside the New Economy and Recovery Authority and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to find innovative ways to finance, build and maintain required capital investments at national ports; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
My department, in line with National Development Plan objectives and National Ports Policy, continues to work with the State ports as they progress projects under their Masterplans and consider opportunities with regard to offshore wind energy. The Tier 1 Ports of Dublin, Cork, and Shannon Foynes all undertook significant capital expenditure in 2022.
Under National Ports Policy our state commercial ports operate as independent commercial bodies. The Policy does not provide for direct exchequer funding. Ports can be financed from their own cash, borrowings, EU grant funding or private sector involvement. Therefore, access to European TEN-T, Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) or other grant funding is vitally important to the eligible ports. My department assists the ports in the CEF application process This policy has proven very effective in developing a highly competitive and responsive ports sector, where ports have continually proven to be agile in responding to market needs and opportunities.
The Government is committed to ensuring that our national commercial Irish ports are positive contributors to the ORE industry and that Ireland meets the ambitious targets of 7GW of offshore wind (2GW of which is specifically dedicated to green hydrogen) by 2030. Supporting the development of port infrastructure is a core objective of the National Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce and the Department is working very closely with the Task Force in this regard.
The need to maximise financing opportunities for ports is recognised. To that end, in addition to its support for ports as part of the CEF process, the department continues to engage with all industry stakeholders. This includes potential financing partners such as the EU (via Connecting Europe Facility), Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) – looking at viable projects, capable of generating a commercial return.
Role of NewERA
NewERA provides financial and commercial advice to the relevant Government Ministers and Departments in relation to commercial State companies across a range of sectors. As part of its role, NewERA is assisting the Department of Transport in relation to capital investment plans (and financing of this capital investment) at national ports. The relevant ports within NewERA’s remit include Dublin Port, Port of Cork, Port of Waterford, Rosslare Port and Shannon Foynes Port Company. These capital investment plans by some of the port companies include plans to invest in port infrastructure to enable the development of offshore renewable energy and NewERA is actively engaged with the relevant port companies and the Department of Transport in relation to the development of this infrastructure.
Role of ISIF
The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (“ISIF”) has previously invested in the port sector, including investment to support the relocation of key activities of the Port of Cork to its new facility in Ringaskiddy. ISIF remains open to considering commercial investment cases presented by port owners and operators. In particular, ISIF notes the strategic importance of investing in port infrastructure to enable the development of significant offshore renewable energy projects and is actively exploring if and how it can complete investments on a commercial basis in this important sector. ISIF is also seeking to support investments that will result in Ireland, and regional Ireland in particular, capturing maximum value from the long-term operation and maintenance of these offshore renewable projects. All potential investments must be consistent with ISIF’s double bottom line mandate of commercial investments that support economic impact and employment in Ireland.
Role of NDFA
The National Development Finance Agency (“NDFA”) provides financial advice to State authorities in respect of those public investment projects which are referred to it (the Public Spending Code states that advice should be sought by State authorities from the NDFA on all projects with a capital value exceeding €75m). At present, national ports do not fall within the NDFA’s mandate under the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2014, as they are commercial State companies and not in receipt of Exchequer funding, and therefore the NDFA has not advised national ports to date in this area.