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Potential to develop a leading international cargo hub at Shannon Airport needs to be exploited, Clare councillors have declared.

Consequences of Brexit were referenced by Cllr John Crowe (FG) in his bid for work to begin on developing “a leading European International cargo hub” at Shannon Airport. In December, Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) called for an air cargo bridge to be established in Shannon.

Numerous options have been “actively explored” by Shannon Group to attempt to increase the usage of the airport facilities “including discussions with the major logistical operators who arrange the movement of goods through various transport channels,” Director of Service Liam Conneally outlined. He said Clare County Council were supporting the initiatives.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office detailed that in the third quarter of 2020 showed that Shannon Airport accounted for 11 percent of the country’s freight traffic by air with Dublin Airport leading the way on 88 percent.

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Ferry is transferring the “vast majority of products suitable for air cargo”, Cllr Crowe stated. “We need to exploit the potential that Shannon has to offer to further develop air cargo in Shannon”. He noted that it was the only airport in the country capable of facilitating the landing of the world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov An-225 Mriya when PPE was being delivered to the country in June.

Brexit’s consequences made Cllr Crowe’s proposal very timely, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) maintained. He noted that Rosslare Point did “five times the amount of freight last month than it did in January 2020”.

Not alone would such a move boost the region, it would also limit damage to the country’s road network, Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) believed. “Shannon Airport really needs something and this could be it. A lot of the cargo comes in and it is then trucked out. It would save damage to the roads”.

Speaking at the February meeting of Clare County Council, Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) highlighted the “great opportunity” that the Irish Government have to support Shannon Airport by developing a cargo hub. “We can’t ever forget this is an island nation, we have to fly and use the sea to export and to import”. He acknowledged that the proposal had been regularly made “but the tide seems to come and go”.

A decade has passed since the notion of a cargo hub was discussed by the local authority, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) commented. “It is disheartening to see cargo land at Shannon and be transported by truck to Dublin Airport. It needs to be looked at urgently, it would create employment and give the area a massive boost”. “Shannon is ripe for that with the hinterland and space around it,” Cllr Mary Howard (FG) said of the proposal.

Britain’s exit from the EU accelerated the need for the hub, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) believed. “It could provide a source of revenue for our struggling airport. Space and road infrastructure are existing strengths in Shannon’s arsenal, Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) maintained. “Dublin is a bottleneck at the moment, anything we could do for Shannon would be a boost. There is no flight going in or out of Shannon at the moment”.

Freight will be “hugely important” to Shannon’s future, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) predicted. A Galway company is shipping 500 tonnes a year out of the country but are doing so by flying it from Germany to South America, he felt the establishment of a cargo hub in the west of Ireland would change their strategy.

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