Warrenpoint Port Dredging Proposals Face Opposition

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Posted October 9, 2018

Warrenpoint Port is the second busiest in Northern Ireland, located where the Newry River opens up into the lough.

Christine Gibson of Greencastle Keep It Green is opposed to the dredging plan, claiming there is nuclear material in the dredged material.

But this has been denied by the port management.

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Ships coming in and out of Warrenpoint Port have a seven-mile trip up the lough to the sea.

In order to maintain a clear access for these vessels, the port is regularly dredged.

Proposed changes

Historically, the silt and other material collected has been deposited at sea.

But according to Port CEO Clare Guinness, changes have been proposed.

"It would still continue to be placed out at sea for the main dredging but we do interim dredges in between the main capital dredges every five years, so nothing will change in that respect.

"As the chief executive of a business with a large substantial cost like that, that is increasing every year, it is only right that we look at doing it in a more efficient way."

'Nuclear material' claims

The site identified by the port is an area between Greencastle and Cranfield at the edge of the lough.

There is an ongoing debate in relation to where the border splits the lough. On one side is County Down, on the other County Louth. Christine Gibson of Greencastle Keep It Green is opposed to the proposal.

"We have major concerns about the nuclear and radioactive substances in the lough and how this is going to be dredged and dumped at Greencastle - which is a designated site for its wildlife and natural assets," she said.

"We are concerned about coastal erosion and how it will affect our air and water quality."

However, Ms Guinness said: "There is a frequent surveying of what is dredged. Before every dredge, whether it is capital or interim, the material is all sampled.

"It is heavily regulated by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) and we certainly comply with those regulations.

"We are not aware of any nuclear content anywhere in the lough and nor are there any plans to have any."

But concerns persist, even among groups that seek to celebrate and develop shipping.

Newry Maritime Association said it is proud of the port, but nervous about the proposal.

"We are very proud of the fact that Warrenpoint Port is a key economic driver in the region," group spokesman James McArevey said.

"This is largely due to a very cohesive effort between the board, ships agents and workers in the port - but the Harbour Authority as to remember that they are living cheek by jowl with the local community and that such proposals must be fully transparent.

"They must move ahead with the local community."

Brexit factor?

Close to the area where it is proposed the dredged material could be deposited, the Carlingford Ferry crosses from Greencastle to Greenore.

In Greenore there is another port. When it was put up for sale in 2014, Warrenpoint Port tried to buy it - something that would have created a single cross-border harbour authority on the Lough.

However, the port was ultimately bought for about £5m by Burke Shipping.

With Brexit Day looming, biologist Breffni Martin believes the Warrenpoint Port plan is linked to the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

"The thinking could be that, after Brexit, the European designations [that regulate what is permitted on the Lough] could disappear. It is hard to understand given the protections that are there, why Warrenpoint would go ahead with this, because in a European framework it seems unlikely that it would be approved."

A public consultation event will take place in Warrenpoint this week.

A previous event was postponed as a result of Storm Ali - and like the changeable Carlingford Lough weather, opponents of the dredging plan will be hoping that it, too, is subject to change.

\Source: BBC News