Varadkar publishes Heads of Bill to reform the port sector

Dun_Laoghaire_harbour

• Five regional ports will transfer to local authorities
• Introduces higher standards for appointments to national Port Company boards

The Cabinet has approved the draft General Scheme of a new Bill with important implications for Ireland’s vital port sector, Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar has announced.

The Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2014 will allow the five designated Ports of Regional Significance in Drogheda, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow to transfer to local authority ownership at a future date, in line with Government policy to strengthen local government.

These five ports play an important role through tourism, leisure amenity, and regional trade. The Government has decided that their future is best secured under strong local governance.

The draft legislation builds upon Minister Varadkar’s ongoing reform of the State commercial ports sector as announced in last year’s new National Ports Policy/Beartas Náisiúnta na gCalafort: http://bit.ly/1p8P7XS

“This is an important Bill for the ports sector, which plays a major role in the Irish economy. The National Ports Policy encourages each port, whether small or large, to develop its full potential to ensure that they can all contribute to further growth in the ports sector. Transferring the five regional ports to local authority management at a future date will be the best way to protect their future and ensure good governance,” Minister Varadkar said.

Sea-borne freight through Ireland’s ports sector accounts for 84% of Ireland’s trade in volume and 62% in value terms. Many of Ireland’s major exporting sectors such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food rely heavily on sea transport.

The Bill will also introduce higher standards for appointments to the boards at Ireland’s largest port companies at Dublin, Cork, Shannon Foynes and Waterford. It will set out specific skillsets for potential appointees, introduce term limits and make it a legal requirement for Chairmen-designate to appear before the relevant Oireachtas committee prior to their appointment. This is already a non-statutory Government requirement.

The draft Bill will now be sent to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport & Communications for detailed consideration by all its members.

Details of draft Bill

The main purpose of the Bill is to provide the necessary amendments to allow for a later transfer of the five designated Ports of Regional Significance – Drogheda, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow – to local authority ownership

The Bill provides for flexibility in the form of the actual transfer, which may be a transfer of Ministerial shareholding in the existing company, or a dissolution of the company structure and full integration within local authority structures.

The second major theme of the Bill is to further improve the board selection and appointment process to the Ports of National Significance at Dublin, Cork, Shannon Foynes and Waterford such as by specifying certain required skillsets, introducing term limits and requiring Chairpersons designate appear before the relevant Oireachtas committee prior to appointment.