Several major business groups have called for Dublin Port to reverse a surprise decision to stop a percentage of cruise ships from entering the port by 2021.

Groups such as Retail Excellence Ireland and DublinTown have spoken out against the decision, which they believe will have a major impact on Dublin’s tourism sector in the wake of Brexit.

An announcement was made last week that 50% of cruise ships are expected to be turned away from Dublin Port from 2021 onward, as space is made to allow the docking of cargo ships and similar vessels.

Richard Guiney, chief executive of Dublin Town, has said the docking of cruise ships in Dublin contributes around €35m to the local economy, and believes the decision to cut the level of cruise ships in the dock will have “disastrous consequences for tourism”.

Guiney said: “The city has come to rely on cruise ship tourists and, at a time when Brexit has brought a decline in tourist numbers from Britain to Ireland, it is important that Dublin Port works with the rest of the city to increase the flow of passengers rather than curtail it.”

Several concerned retail, tourism and transport services have also banded together to create the All-Ireland Cruise Ship Action Group, in a bid to encourage Dublin Port to reverse the decision.

Launched last week in Buswells Hotel in the wake of the announcement, the group believe that Dublin Port’s decision will “devastate Irish tourism”.

Niamh McCarthy, chief executive of Excursions Ireland, and a spokesperson for AICSAG, said: “Dublin Port Company’s decision will devastate Irish tourism and is driving a death nail into our business.

“For the past ten years, the Dublin Port Company have played an important role by increasing the numbers of cruise ships docking in Dublin and were at the forefront of highlighting their benefit to the Irish economy. Dublin Port have performed a complete sea change, to everyone’s amazement.

“Their damaging strategy has come out of nowhere and will risk the many thousands of jobs in Ireland dependent on the sector.”

However, in a statement to Dublin Gazette, Dublin Port Company said that the restrictions are a temporary measure whilst construction works are carried out on a quay wall.

“The berth restrictions we are introducing in 2021 are intended to last three years – ie from 2021 to 2023 – while we undertake major construction works on a 400-metre quay wall, Alexandra Quay West.

“As regards the long-term, we have planning permission to develop new berths suitable for cruise ships immediately east of the Tom Clark Bridge [the final bridge over the Liffey, by Dublin Port], at an estimated cost of €100m.

“This is the subject of a cost benefit analysis study which is currently under way and which will be finished by mid-year.

“We intend publishing this study as part of a public consultation process, including with the cruise industry, to ensure that a €100m investment by Dublin Port would be viable.

“Subject to the outcome of this process, the new berths would be constructed in 2024/2025 and be available in 2026,” said the statement.