Our Cill Rónáin Aran Islands new harbour project, recently completed, has won the Engineers Ireland Project of the Year Award 2012. As lead project engineers and designers, PUNCH Consulting is proud to deliver this award winning project to completion.
A 550m long armourstone breakwater provides shelter for the new harbour, and within its protecting arm there are new quays for ferries, fishing, cargo vessels, RNLI lifeboat, and a new slipway. Significant rock dredging was carried out to provide depths of water for navigation, and this rock was re-used in a significant reclamation. The project has substantially improved safety and traffic management around the old pier and improved the sustainability of life on the island.
The island of Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands in County Galway has a long history extending back over many centuries. The village of Cill Ronain (Kilronan) lies near the eastern end of the island in a large inlet called Killeany Bay. The harbour at Cill Ronain has served as the gateway to the island for as long as settlements have existed there and it continues to play a vital role in meeting the needs of the island residents and tourists today.
The location of Cill Rónáin on Inis Mór provides the best natural shelter possible from the Atlantic swells which roll in from the west as these hazardous waves must round the headland into Killeany Bay before reaching Cill Rónáin harbour. Despite this, there has been a great need for improved shelter to protect this vital communications gateway for the community on the island.
The community on Inis Mór comprises around 800 people and the harbour serves as their gateway for the majority of their travel to the mainland as well as their cargo requirements including building materials, furniture, vehicles and so on. Fishing is a significant part of the island economy but as trawlers have increased in size, many families have had to relocate to the mainland as the facilities at Cill Rónáin were inadequate to accommodate their vessels. In addition, the Harbour facilitates many tens of thousands of foot-passengers who visit the island each year to experience the history and culture of this unique location and tourism has become a very substantial part of the island economy.
In designing the new harbour at Cill Rónáin, the priority was to provide shelter as use of the existing pier was frequently hazardous to vessels and passengers in many weather conditions. This required the introduction of a significant new breakwater. A substantial rubble mound breakwater was designed and constructed specifically for the conditions at this site and within its protecting arm rests the new harbour where maritime activities can now take place in safety.
The sheltered conditions enabled the development of the additional quay space required by the range of activities which were already taking place there. Passengers, cargo and fishing are now safely separated with dedicated berths for each. Larger trawlers can now be accommodated thanks to significant dredging works undertaken and so the fishing community will be sustained on the island. The Royal National Lifeboat Institute has now an alongside berth within the harbour which improves safety of access for emergencies on the island and also improved response times for distress callouts.
All of these benefits to the community are noteworthy in themselves, but perhaps the most wide-ranging benefit of all will be found through the support to the island community that the new harbour will provide and, in doing so, the support that it will provide to the Irish language and the Irish culture on the island, which will benefit all of us, economically and socially, for generations to come.
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