The port of Cork, a national asset with strong growth potential

Tim LucyChief Executive of Cork County Council, on Cork Port’s unique economy

Just as a rising tide lifts all ships, Cork Harbor serves as an economic and cultural engine for the South of Ireland. It is one of our country’s greatest assets.

Its strategic value has transformed and evolved with the nation throughout its 1,400 year history. It connects Ireland to the world through trade routes that cross the globe. Global leaders in pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, chemical manufacturing and other global industries have tapped into the strong skilled workforce, idyllic location and welcoming community. From a fortified military port to a welcoming center of research, tourism and commerce, the success of the Port of Cork is the success of Ireland.

Cork’s port economy is a microcosm of all of Cork, both city and county, as well as the wider region. Is a driving force for all of Cork, having evolved and adapted alongside its local community. It connects Ireland to global trade routes and in turn invites global industry leaders to connect with an idyllic location, an educated and motivated workforce and a community rich in culture and heritage. The social, environmental and cultural factors of the region are the basis of a unique economic ecosystem which has seen Cork Port Region enjoy a GDP per capita consistently above the state average, thanks to the collaboration of private and public sectors.

With a current GDP of €4.5 billion, Cork’s port economy has the potential to reach a GDP of €12 billion by 2040. As Chief Executive of Cork County Council, I readily acknowledge the strength of large-scale commerce in Cork. But it is important to note that collaborative delivery models that focus on Cork’s growth ambition need to reflect the wider urban and rural fabric of Cork.

While GDP is and always will be a driver of growth, this in no way diminishes our focus on broader societal gains, such as health, well-being, place-making, sustainability, etc., which must all prosper in equal measure and be a part of maintaining the balance between all competing forces, from a rising tide lifts all approaching ships.

The thriving port economy is also a distinct spatial entity, made up of a population of 72,000 living in the five county metropolitan cities surrounding the harbor waters – Cobh, Carrigaline, Passage West, Midleton and Carrigtwohill. Employment in these port cities is complemented by the strategic port employment locations of Little Island, Ringaskiddy and Whitegate. The success of the port area as a place to live and work is reflected in the growth of the port population at double the national rate over the past 30 years. This growth has been supported by targeted public and private investments in infrastructure, housing and employment.

Project Ireland 2040 outlines how County Cork could grow its population to 436,488, with growth targets calling for an additional 63,000 jobs. According to the 2016 census, there are 93,451 jobs in County Cork, of which 29,171 are based in the port area. More importantly, 67% of the population in this port area is under the age of 45, while over 300,000 people live within a 45 minute journey of the port.

Cork County Council is currently making progress in delivering an extensive active transport network which will see the transformation of the transport landscape across the port area. Stretching from Midleton to the city along the Eastern Metropolitan Corridor and from the city limit to Crosshaven along the Southern Corridor, this infrastructure will connect metropolitan cities to strategic employment centers through sustainable modes of travel.

The result will be an example of sustainable travel, providing a cohesive sustainable travel network serving and stimulating trade in the Port of Cork. The active transport network interfaced with the public transport system will provide high quality connectivity between residential settlements, employment centres, leisure facilities and Cork City. Thus, for the first time, a high-quality, integrated, reliable and durable door-to-door alternative to the passenger car will be available.

Cork’s port economy is a unique spatial, community and economic entity in its own right. He deserves to be high in all our minds as a national asset, deserving of unique and special attention. The core of our ambition for the Port of Cork economy is to become a global leader in climate change action and sustainability, enabling industry, commerce, transport, people, communities, heritage and the environment to continue to grow in a compatible way but all focused on our 2050 climate change ambitions.

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