David Holmes, CEO Warrenpoint Harbour Authority

Warrenpoint Harbour Authority is the second largest port in Northern Ireland. We are a major economic driver for this area. We directly employ almost 70 personnel and indirectly support in the region of 200 jobs in the locality.

“Last year we contributed £9.6m (GVA) into the local economy and we have an extensive corporate social responsibility programme where we support numerous charitable and community organisations/initiatives. We also have an unwavering commitment to protecting and enhancing our local environment, particularly the natural habitat of Carlingford Lough.

“We are very aware of concerns some local groups and individuals have in relation to the Port activities. We are fortunate that we live and work in an area of outstanding natural beauty. The nature of the work of the Port obviously requires us to be close to the water to carry out our commercial activities. We however, are not in the position of many other Ports who have an extensive landbank for development. We must work within the confines of the space we have available to us at our edge of town location. As CEO it is my responsibility to make sure we make best commercial and environmental use of that limited space.

“Since taking up my position I have been committed to Warrenpoint Port being a good corporate citizen. This is a core value and objective of the organisation. This incorporates engaging with our neighbours including the citizens of this area. We want to be completely open and transparent. We want to address the issues that we can address and agree to disagree on those that we cannot.

“What we need however, is proper dialogue and discussion. We are listening and we are open to listening. The recent letter from ‘The Residents of Carlingford Lough Community’ has no names attached to it. We do not know who has drafted this correspondence to the press. They have incorporated Port activities; third party customers; Newry Mourne and Down Council; proposed infrastructure projects such as the Southern Relief Road which we have no direct influence on; and other business activities in Milltown Industrial Estate completely unrelated to the Port, in one single correspondence which can create confusion. We request that the authors of this correspondence please engage with us directly on the perceived issues relating to the Port activities. We are very happy to engage on the matters pertaining to us.

“We have a difficult period ahead as we try to navigate the uncertainties of our responsibilities as a Port in relation to Brexit. We have already outlined our concerns as to the short timeframe available to consult the local community on what we likely will be required to do by the UK Government. This is something we are gravely concerned about as we believe we will be required to install new infrastructure. We need urgent clarity on this situation so we can take the required action.

“We are proud of our partnership with Nippon and we have full confidence in the safety and environmental credentials of their activities. I do however understand that this has raised concerns in the local community. We want to address these. We want to look at what we can do to mitigate the visual aspect of the tanks and minimise the impact on the local community.

“We however, absolutely refute the view that there ‘appears to be unlawful development’. Planning permission was lawfully granted to Nippon in 2015 following the submission of the required documentation and extensive consultation.

“We are also delighted to work with our customer, local company Re-Gen and we again absolutely refute the claim that Re-Gen is operating a hazardous waste facility at the site. Re-Gen use the facilities for the onward shipping of non-hazardous waste.

“It is important for local citizens, our neighbours to feel that they are listened to and communicated with. We are launching a new consultation and open conversation initiative called ‘On Board’ to help people understand our role in the community and how they can engage with us. We are commencing this with a consultative body, made up of at least seven publicly elected representatives, a Tourism Official and our business neighbours to explore the potential for visually softening the C02 tank appearance.

“In the meantime, I do urge the wider community to get to know the Port, to understand how we are a vital component in the local economy and to engage with our ‘On Board’ campaign as it is developed. I look forward to open discussion in the weeks and months ahead with our neighbours, friends, fellow businesses, and indeed those who do not currently support Port operations. I think that it is very important that we all have a voice in shaping the future of our area from an economic, tourism and environmental perspective.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity again to thank all our First Line Port Workers who have kept going throughout Covid 19 helping protect the essential Island supply chains. I would also like to acknowledge the work of all frontline staff  including our customers and partners who have been amongst the many keyworkers keeping us healthy and the economy moving throughout this pandemic.”