Chain Reaction: Paul O’Regan Shares Top Tips for Exporters


Paul O’Regan is chief operations officer and harbour master at Port of Cork. We caught up with Paul to ask him a few questions about his views on exporting, Brexit and for his tips for those looking to export. Read on to find out his top tips for exporters in the latest piece in our Chain Reaction series:

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In 2007, O’Regan – who was born and raised in County Cork – was promoted to deputy harbour master, before taking up his current role in 2013. He has worked in the organisation since 2002, when he joined as a marine pilot following 15 years at sea with companies such as Orient Overseas Container Line and Irish Ferries.

What is the biggest challenge to exporters in 2019?

“I think it’s capacity: the economy is booming, and this year is going to be a record year for Port of Cork. So for exporters, the availability of capacity both in the shipping networks and the port networks is a major challenge.

“I would add that as a member of the Irish Ports Association, the Port of Cork and other Irish ports meet regularly to discuss our role in the support of Irish businesses in the face of current trading challenges such as Brexit.

“Dublin in particular is doing a brilliant job of highlighting the fact that it needs extra space, extra capacity and extra trade facilitation. Cork is exactly the same – we have 23% of the overall container market in the country and 40% of the agrimarket – so we are very aware that the capacity network needs to be built, and it needs to be built quickly.”

What is the most exciting development for exporters going forward?

“Here in Cork locally, the port is engaged in a €80m development for a new container terminal, which will be the first greenfield container terminal in the country.

“This will allow for the creation of considerable extra capacity that will enable exporters and importers to move their goods efficiently through the port. It will also allow for a much more far-reaching network of connections, and Cork will be best placed to accommodate much larger container vessels in the future.

“Most container terminals in Ireland started as small operations and have grown organically over the years, land space being a major restriction in most cases. Cork Container Terminal has been designed to be technologically advanced on a large site footprint to allow for growth.

“The project started in February 2018 and we hope to be opening the gates on the facility in the first quarter of 2020.”

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Why do you think it is important for exporters and those who service exporters to collaborate on a series like the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) Supply Chain Series?

“I think that being part of a network like this will help exporters and the companies that support them to make the right decisions when planning logistic chains and avail themselves of robust support networks.

“Recently I was in London meeting with global logistics providers and terminal operators, and the common theme was – what happens if no Brexit deal is reached?

“What came out of these discussions is that unless the industry is very much aware of how they will be able to continue their businesses if there is no deal – in terms of being able to absorb extra costs, find new markets or even continue with the current logistics patterns as they are at the moment – there will be significant problems ahead.”

"Here in Cork locally, the port is engaged in a €80m development for a new container terminal, which will be the first greenfield container terminal in the country”

Paul O’Regan, Chief Operations Officer and Harbour Master, Port of Cork

What are the top three tips you would give to anyone looking to export from Ireland?

“My main piece of advice is to know your market and your market route. Find a logistics provider who will also use the correct port, correct shipping line and correct transport company to be able to give the most cost-effective solutions; make sure you have the most efficient route to market.

“Secondly, I’d stress the importance of making sure this route is safe as well. We see huge threats and risks to the logistics chain – everything from cyber to physical.

“Finally, it is vital to make sure you are insured. We often see exporters rely on an overall one-off insurance to ensure their commodity is safe for the whole transport network chain, but they sometimes disregard parts of the logistics chain which need different levels of insurance, such as shipping at sea.”

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In your opinion, is Brexit an opportunity or a threat – and why?

“A hard Brexit is obviously a major threat, however a controlled Brexit can offer opportunities when you see what's happening in a broad network like we have in the Port of Cork. It will certainly pose a threat in the short term. This is mainly due to the huge level of uncertainty over what systems and procedures need to be put in place.

“But at the same time, I think we are already starting to see the opportunities that surround Brexit. There is much more interest around connectivity between port networks. French ports are coming to meet Irish ports, Irish ports are meeting Belgian and Dutch ports, all with a view to creating a much more robust network of support for exporters.

“We have traditionally been over-reliant on the land bridge [the route through the UK] – it has been the fastest route to market and the most secure for many companies, but it is not the only one.

“As a result, we haven’t really developed much broader networks that would allow customers to pick Le Havre, Gijon, Santander or Tangiers – ports that wouldn’t normally be on the map. Exporters could push cargo into these ports and have much greater connectivity into mainland Europe and into the Mediterranean and global trans-shipment hubs. So there is an opportunity for us to create much broader networks that will allow us to supply much more securely into the future.”

Recommended reading: Reach Out For The Help Your Business Needs to Tackle Brexit Issues

By Chris Torney

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