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Upgraded Port of Galway ‘could become naval base’

A West of Ireland MEP has suggested that an upgraded Galway port could potentially be used as a navy base.

Midlands-North-West MEP Colm Markey, who sits on the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, was speaking in light of the recent report from the Defence Forces Commission.

The MEP, who has done extensive work towards obtaining Trans-European Transport Network status (TEN-T) for Galway Port, said that the proposal made ‘perfect sense’.

“Alongside enormous potentials in offshore wind, hydrogen production, and tourism expansion, Galway port acting as a naval base is another layer of potential for an upgraded port,” he said.

“The report from the Commission on the Defence Forces recognised the need for heightened naval activity.

“There could be a need for a naval port along the west coast, and given the proximity to Renmore Barracks, Galway port makes perfect sense,” he added.

But he acknowledged that this would only make sense ‘following significant investment in the port, and parallel to the delivery of other key service capacity for the port’.

“Whether offshore wind, hydrogen, tourism, or naval base, it is quite clear that there are buckets of potential for Galway and the west of Ireland arising from the port,” he said.

“I will continue to push for investment at EU level, through the EP transport committee and otherwise, as well as at a national level with government colleagues.”

His comments come after Galway Port unveiled its push for changes into how ports are classified in the European Union – so that it can apply for funding for its planned redevelopment and help it to facilitate offshore wind energy.

CEO of the Galway Harbour Company, Conor O’Dowd, led a recent delegation to Brussels – facilitated by Colm Markey – to meet with influential MEPs in a bid to drive home the message that wind speeds on the north west coast are the highest in Europe.

He told him that, in the West, there was no top tier – or ‘TEN-T’ port – which attract the highest level of EU funding due to the fact they are categorised according to tonnage and passenger numbers.

“The metric for Ten-T ports is an outdated mode of port measurement. If you look at modern ports, particularly when it comes to renewable energy such as wind turbines, they weigh very little compared to oil, but the revenue is high because they take a lot of labour, cranage, logistics and storage,” he explained.

“Developing wind energy is hugely important in terms of weaning ourselves off carbon so anything that encourages offshore wind farms is a good thing. The metric also doesn’t consider use of the land bank at ports or rental earned.”

The technology associated with floating wind turbines presents an exciting opportunity for a network of ports along the West coast. It would give ports like Galway the chance to pivot in order to service offshore windfarms.

Meetings organised by the Fine Gael MEP over two days did not elicit any commitments. But the EU politicians did seem impressed with the future capabilities of the north west coast for renewable energy.

“Offshore wind could meet all Irelands’ electricity needs and provide clean energy exports to other European markets. It’s crucial that Galway Port is supported as the EU aims to meets its climate targets and quickly move away from importing energy from Russia,” stated the Midlands-North-West MEP.

Galway Port is still waiting for word on its billion-euro port redevelopment, which has been with An Bord Pleanála since 2014.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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