Galway Harbour Company CEO Eamon Bradshaw has defended the company’s performance as a commercial port, after new accounts revealed that less than 40 per cent of its total turnover in 2011 came from docking fees.
Filed accounts for Galway Harbour Company reveal that the total turnover for the port in 2011 was €3,536,737, with 53 per cent of this taken in through income from rental and parking services.
Speaking to the Galway Independent this week, Mr Bradshaw said that the rental income was a key component of the port’s core business, as it is linked to oil and bitumen clients who require facilities in the vicinity.
“They build their tanks on them for storage and they pay us rental. So to say that rental is not core business is not really correct. The rental business is very much linked to import and export business coming through the Port,” he explained.
After expenses were deducted, Galway Port made a profit of over €823,000 in 2011. This reflects an increase of 25 per cent on 2010’s recorded figure, despite a drop in turnover of almost eight per cent.
While operating costs at Galway Harbour Company have been reduced by 22 per cent over the last number of years, employment costs remain high, reaching €871,406 in 2011.
Mr Bradshaw said the constraints posed by the current port facilities were a major contributor to these costs, with workers having to be compensated for operating the gates at irregular hours.
“As well as being constrained by the size of the port, we can also only operate at high tide, so we are only operating for four of every 24 hours. The cost of running that is extraordinary because you have to have people opening the gates at 2am, 3am, 4am, even 5am in the middle of winter, in worst of weathers, you can’t expect people to come in without paying to do that kind of dangerous work.”
The CEO said there was no question that, if the planned development of the harbour does not go ahead, it would become obsolete in a number of years and be forced to close as a commercial port. He explained that companies are now choosing to use larger ships for cost reasons and, if the facilities are not available in Galway, “they will go elsewhere”.
“We either develop the port or we settle for Galway no longer being a commercial port and that would be the first time since the Middle Ages that Galway would not be a commercial trading port. We want to maintain the port for this generation of Galwegians and for the next hundred years.”
And he admitted that criticism and strong commentary on the future of Galway Harbour “just galls a bit”, given the strong performance the company has shown in attracting the Volvo Ocean Race and pursuing the development of the port and marina.
“Since 1996, Galway Harbour Company have showed profit every single year. Waterford has shown a big loss, Dun Laoghaire showed a big loss, Cork, which is a major port, showed a profit of €1.1m, which is just €300,000 more than we did.
“We have performed very well and served the place very well. It just galls a bit that some people can comment very strongly and be selective in what they want to say but contribute very little to the development of the port or employment or creation of employment. Maybe it’s time some of those people got off the fence and did something about it, rather than talking all the time.”