Galway is set to become a byword for marine research innovation following the signing of the ‘Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation’ at the Marine Institute on Friday. An agreement between the EU, the US and Canada, the research alliance aims to promote the sustainable management of Atlantic Ocean resources.
Marine Institute Chairman and new Galway Chamber President, Jim Fennell believes Galway is ideally placed to benefit from such developments, as well as from the implementation of the Government’s marine plan, ‘Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth’, which aims to exceed €6.4 billion a year in turnover from the maritime sectors by 2020, and double their contribution to GDP to 2.4 per cent a year by 2030.
The Marine Institute’s ‘Real Map of Ireland’ shows the country has one of the largest seabed territories in Europe, 220 million acres, and Mr Fennell says that 90 per cent of Irish territory is under the Atlantic. However, Ireland only generated 1.2 per cent of its GDP from its ocean economy in 2007, supporting about one per cent of the total workforce, compared to between three and five per cent of Europe’s GDP.
“We have a huge maritime resource and there is a great deal we can do with it,” says Mr Fennell, citing aquaculture, renewable energy, and oil and gas exploration as key development areas that new business opportunities may be identified. “We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on what the Atlantic can deliver to Ireland.”
He adds that Galway is well geographically located to take advantage of the ‘blue economy’, but that building the land-based infrastructure required to support the marine sector’s development is vital.
He stresses in particular the importance of Galway Harbour to the city, both in terms of the ‘blue economy’ and tourism, and points to Galway Chamber’s support for Galway Harbour Board’s plans to develop the port.
“The harbour is vital to ensuring that Galway participates in and enjoys the growth that will ensue from the development of our marine resources. It is vital that the harbour area is developed and upgraded and made an attractive location to tourists. And it is vital that a deep water port is established to facilitate Galway playing its part in a hugely growing cruise line business,” he says.
Another key piece of infrastructure for Galway, according to Mr Fennell, is the motorway from Tuam to Gort, which will bring Galway City to within 40 minutes of Shannon Airport, providing vital business access to London Heathrow and North America. Mr Fennell also stresses that there needs to be a fifth bridge across the Corrib in order to ensure the protection of our medieval city, and to improve traffic flow.
All these developments are key to promoting economic development in the region, and Mr Fennell explains that attracting Foreign Direct Investment and building indigenous industry continue to be among Galway Chamber’s key priorities in the year ahead.
He also believes that the commercial rates issue is probably the most important issue to confront businesses this year.
“It is expected that there will be a revision of the valuations on which the rate is struck and business is very concerned about the impact that will have on their cost base and therefore that has to be a key priority for Galway Chamber this year,” he says.
“Business has suffered five years of probably one of the worst recessions in a developed economy. We have no reason to believe that this year will be any different and how businesses are surviving at the moment is about keeping costs down. Business has to look at all its costs and the rates is one issue on which the Chamber will be active.”
Galway Chamber will host the ‘Bright Blue Sea Conference’ this Friday, 30 May, at the g Hotel. The day-long event will include a series of expert presentations on four themes: Sea TECH, Sea FOOD, Sea PORT and Sea ENERGY. Contact Maeve Joyce at Galway Chamber for further information on 091-563536 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.