The 2004 redevelopment of the Donegal harbour was co-funded by the BMW Regional Programme of the National Development Plan under the Port Infrastructure Improvement Programme and the European Regional Development Fund and represented the single-ever biggest EU investment in the region.
Coming at a time of challenge for the fishing industry, the new harbour provided an additional 300 metres of deep water berthing space, increasing the commercial potential of the facility, in addition to the normal fisheries activities.
“Killybegs is the engine driver of the whole economy of South Donegal and if we hadn’t done it when we did, we would be losing business, because it wouldn’t be able to cater for the number and size of the vessels it is catering for now,” says Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO).
Last year, Killybegs Harbour Centre landed 192,000 tonnes of fish, worth €125 million, a growth of €37 million on 2016.
The port is also playing a pivotal role in the development of offshore energy as the port of choice for some of the top multinational companies conducting offshore oil, gas and renewable energy explorations.
The port also welcomes an average of 16 cruise ships annually with passengers welcomed by the Killybegs Cruise Ladies, a voluntary group of local women, who organise craft exhibitions, music and entertainment.
“This is part of an emerging market and we would like to see that number doubling. We believe the potential is there providing we can deliver good experiences,” says Barney McLaughlin, Head of Tourism, with Donegal County Council.
The Killybegs Harbour Centre is now at capacity at certain times of the year and the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine is seeking to extend the pier further to provide an additional 120 metres of berthing space.