Evidence of the economic recovery taking hold in the regions has been reflected by tonnage growth at Ireland’s largest bulk port company, Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC), which this Tuesday revealed that 2015 throughput was almost back to the peak of the last decade.

SFPC handled just over 11.1 million tons in 2015, up from just over 10.1 million in 2014, and this comes off the back of a €2.8m profit recorded in its most recent annual accounts for 2014.  Tonnages in 2015 saw the company, which operates six ports on the Shannon Estuary and facilitates international trade valued at over €6bn, almost return to peak levels (11.35m tons) in 2006.

Announcing 2015 tonn-ages, SFPC said that the company is achieving the growth targets revealed three years ago with the launch of its masterplan, Vision 2041, and this reaffirms the need for major investment in road and rail infrastructure to ensure its potential can be maximised.  The tonnages also copper-fastens the company’s position as the largest dry bulk port in the country.

Cargo volumes last year at the SFPC general cargo terminals at Limerick and Foynes were particularly robust, with 10.73% year on year growth.  Among the key growth sectors were petroleum products tonnages, which increased by 7.4%, and cement exports, which rose by over 200%.  Agri-related cargo also grew steadily, with trades such as fertilisers increasing by over 4%.

Said SFPC CEO Patrick Keating: “This growth reflects the resurgence in the domestic and export economy and, of course, in our own business.  SFPC is a really good economic indicator for the region.  We had some challenging years but the turn-around in our business has been remarkable, to the extent that we are now almost replicating tonnages from the height of the last decade and expect to surpass those levels over the coming years.

“We are very confident about the potential of the Shannon Estuary as a major economic engine room for this region thanks to its unrivalled natural water depths.  This year alone we have completed the biggest investment in quayside infrastructure in any Irish port so far this decade with the infill of our East Jetty, as part a wider €50m capital spend at Foynes.  Our investment programme is also attracting significant private interest, with €40m in private investment also now coming on stream.”  

Said SFPC Chairman Michael Collins: “SFPC is proving one of the great success stories of the recovery in this region. This impressive turnaround is very much down to a dynamic team and its determination to deliver the robust but attainable targets we have set for the company. 

“Last year was another very solid year in terms of traffic throughput but future growth can only be sustained by delivering additional capacity and putting the road and rail infrastructure in place.  If this doesn’t happen, the company’s potential to be a major engine for growth in this region will be curtailed.”