Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey has been asked to invest some of the millions of euro in revenue generated by the 10 euro air travel tax into the development of an international cargo hub at Shannon Airport.
The Mid-West Regional Authority (MWRA) and Mayors of the Region’s four local authorities met Minister Dempsey in Dublin this afternoon to also highlight the need to develop a strong business plan for an autonomous Shannon Airport. The delegation stressed that that the airport could no longer survive on air passengers travelling to and from the facility and that the development of an international cargo hub was key to securing its future.
Speaking following the hour long meeting, MWRA Cathaoirleach Councillor Leo Walsh commented: “We emphasised the requirement for urgent Government investment in the proposed cargo hub as an existing Memorandum Of Understanding between major international cargo handler Lynx and The Shannon Airport Authority (SAA) is due to expire in mid 2010. We stressed that the Government has a clear opportunity to help secure the future of Shannon Airport and the creation of hundreds of jobs in the West of Ireland. It is estimated that between 4-5 million euro are required to put the necessary infrastructure in place at Shannon to deliver the Lynx project.”
Commenting on the benefits associated with an international Cargo Hub, MWRA Director Liam Conneally said: “Shannon’s unrestricted runway, round-the-clock operation, efficient handling and the presence of many of the major global logistics firms provide air cargo/freight options unavailable at any other Irish airport. There is no doubt that the construction and operation of an international hub by Lynx would consolidate the operations of existing multinationals in the region as well as help attract inward investment from other multinationals.”
He noted that the Mid West Regional Planning Guidelines and Clare County Council’s Development plans support the development of a cargo hub at Shannon. “The Shannon Cargo Hub is vital to the future sustainable business model for the Airport and Shannon has all the associated road connectivity necessary to make the business a success. The MWRA and the Region’s Mayors welcome the Minister’s commitment to investigating the potential for Government investment in the proposed facility”, added Mr. Conneally.
Councillor Bill O’Donnell, Leas Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council pointed out that the region’s local authorities were committed to engaging with Government in a positive and proactive way for the betterment of the Mid-West. He indicated, however, that the SAA’s development of a business plan was being hindered by the lack of clarity coming from the Government regarding future autonomy for Shannon Airport.
“The new SAA board is working to develop a new business model while at the same time realising the fundamental role that the Airport plays in promoting regional development and jobs in the Mid-West. I informed the Minister, however, that our contacts with the Airport would indicate that it is difficult to ascertain what the Dublin Airport Authority’s vision for Shannon Airport is and the consequent difficulty the SAA board to plan for the future in such a business/policy vacuum”, explained Councillor O’Donnell.
Mayor of Clare Councillor Tony Mulcahy asked Minister Dempsey to support the continued marking of the Shannon Customs a Border Post, which enables passengers to go through both US immigration and customs inspections before departing Ireland.
“I reminded Minister Dempsey of the need for Government to support efforts to further develop and market them, as well as expand on the 121 out of 480 of international airports in the US that are currently served by the facilities. On behalf of the delegation, I informed the Minister that without the specialist marketing of the pre-clearance facilities there is a danger that his vision and work to deliver this facility to the Shannon region will not be fully realised for the benefit of the region. I stressed that the importance of increasing Government support of specific marketing initiatives, such as the targeting of the Nordic countries, Lithuania, Austria and Poland which do not have direct transatlantic services and can pre-clear at Shannon”, explained Mayor Mulcahy.
He added: “There is an acknowledgement by the management and staff at Shannon Airport that the pre-clearance facilities have to be to the highest standard and we understand that the Airport is working with the School of Architecture at UL to deliver high quality design at Shannon”.
Councillor Denis McCarthy, Deputy Mayor of Limerick City noted that the development of a marketing strategy for Shannon Airport supported by a dedicated fund was now a priority for the airport. He continued: “While the attraction of new airlines and route development is a must for the airport, tourism marketing and tourism product development is also necessary as is the specialised marketing of the customs and border control facility at Shannon. We told the Minister that to assist Shannon’s plight in dealing with ‘Open Skies’ the Shannon Airport Catchment Fund for 2010 should be dedicated to marketing the actual catchment area of the airport. We suggested that to maximise the effect of the fund the Shannon Airport Authority and Shannon Development partnership, as opposed to Tourism Ireland, should have control of the fund”.
Meanwhile, Councillor Denis Ryan, Mayor of North Tipperary has asked Minister Dempsey to provide additional funding for local authorities in meeting the costs incurred during and after the recent extreme weather conditions. “I appeal to the Minister for the Department’s assistance to help local authorities in meeting these significant additional costs. An adequately funded and completed Mid-West Road Restoration Programme is key to retaining quality access to Shannon Airport”, he said.
The Mid-West delegation that met with Minister Dempsey included Cllr Leo Walsh, Cathaoirleach, MWRA; Cllr Tony Mulcahy, Mayor of Clare; Cllr Bill O’Donnell, Leas Cathaoirleach of Limerick County; Cllr Denis Ryan Mayor of North Tipperary; Cllr Denis McCarthy Deputy Mayor of Limerick City; and L Conneally, Director, MWRA. The delegation also met with Aer Lingus Chief Executive Christoph Muller last month.