The port offers complete protection from all conditions, and the channel is marked all the way from the Shannon River entrance to the city of Limerick. Above the River Fergus, however, this does become increasingly narrow and shallow requiring attentive navigation. Boats of any draft will most likely require a tidal rise between Shannon Airport and Limerick. Likewise, Limerick is an enclosed wet dock that typically only opens to allow access two hours prior and up to local high water.
Keyfacts for Limerick Docks
Summary* Restrictions applyA completely protected location with attentive navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position52° 39.510' N, 008° 38.675' W
The head of the eastern pier on the southern shore where the dock is entered.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
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Image: © Frank Cosgrove
Limerick is a city located in the mid-west region and is also part of the province of Munster. The city lies on the River Shannon, with the historic core of the city located on King's Island, which is bounded by the Shannon and the Abbey River. Limerick is the third most populous urban area in the state and the fourth most populous city on the island of Ireland.
The town has a small commercial port that receives visiting yachts. The available berth is a wet dock and final approaches must be in the two hours prior to local high water. The dock gates usually only open for these two hours and as such almost all of Limerick’s shipping movement takes place during these periods.
It is essential that all vessels wishing to use Limerick Dock make prior berthing arrangements with the Shannon Foynes Port Company before an approach is made. They are available on VHF channel 11 or Tel: +353 69 73103 and they will provide berthing instructions. Channel 14 is the secondary channel typically used for berthing/unberthing operations.
It should also be noted that from the junction of the River Shannon with the River Fergus, the final 16 miles of the channel leading to Limerick Docks has a least depth of 1.2 metres. This requires a vessel of any draft to make use of a tidal rise to achieve the final approach.
Image: Burke Corbett
The forty-three-mile run-up to the head of the River Shannon estuary, from the entrance to Limerick City, are detailed in the River Shannon Overview . From the Shannon Entrance initial fix, it is simply a matter of following the river’s extensive array of navigational aids upriver that include lighthouses, light beacons, leading lights and light buoys. Owing to tidal races and the nature of the channel, especially in the upper reaches beyond the River Fergus, the run may not necessarily proceed from buoy to buoy. As such it is highly advised that a stranger should gain an understanding of the rivers’ characteristics by using a good set of charts in conjunction with our coastal description.
Leisure craft are obliged to give way to commercial shipping when operating within the river and estuary. All commercial vessels transiting the Shannon Estuary operate a listening watch on VHF Channel 11 and it is strongly recommended that leisure craft do also. If any uncertainty should arise when encountering commercial traffic the key to safety is good communications by using Channel 11 to clearly indicate respective intentions.
The dock is in the west part of the city on the south side of the river. It is 422 metres long and 140 metres across at its widest part with its entrance in the eastern end. The dock is entered heading in a southeast direction via a 21.3-metre wide gate that has a least depth over the sill of 5.2 metres at MLWN. Inside the depth is maintained from 5.5 to 6.0 metres by impounding the previous HW. Berth as instructed by the port authorities.
The Limerick Harbour Authority requires yachts to sign an indemnity form. This may be obtained from the gateman's hut at the tidal gates or at the harbour masters office.
Why visit here?Limerick, or in Irish Luimneach meaning ‘Bare Land’, is situated at the head of the Shannon estuary. Originally Luimneach referred to the general area along the banks of the Shannon estuary which was then known as Loch Luimnigh.
In the 9th-century the Vikings sailed up the estuary and conquered the area. They found an ideal berthing location for their longships at “Kings Island” and when they subsequently returned in larger numbers a fortified settlement was established here. Thus began the origins of Limerick City and as the Vikings moved beyond conquest to trade, the Luimneach settlement became an important trading centre.
Image: Tourism Ireland
In the 12th-century, the Normans invaded and took possession of the area. Once again the port was used for trade and provided a great source of revenue. When in the 13th century King John visited Limerick he ordered the construction of a fortress to defend the key trading post. This became King John's Castle that stands today as the river’s sentinel and commands all river approaches and access across Thurmond Bridge. Today this fortress is one of the city's leading tourist attractions.
Throughout the medieval period and beyond, the city continued to prosper as a trading centre. This success was based on the conjunction of a surrounding agricultural-driven economy with the cities position as the first major port along the river Shannon. This progress was only interrupted by the Act of Union in 1800 and the Famine.
Today Limerick is Ireland’s third largest city and although its medieval past resounds around its ancient streets, it is a thoroughly modern, bustling, vibrant, cosmopolitan city. There are numerous pubs, wine bars and nightclubs and a wide range of drinking experiences from the 'warm and cosy' to 'cutting edge'. Alongside this are a variety of cafes, restaurants and hotels to cater for most tastes. Likewise, several modern shopping centres combined with more traditional shops and services offer a wide range of shopping experience.
From a tourism perspective, it has something to offer everybody thanks to its many cultural, historical, architectural, shopping and sporting activities at hand. City attractions include the previously mentioned St. John's Castle, St. Mary's Cathedral, St. John's Cathedral, that incidentally has Ireland's tallest spire, and the internationally renowned Hunt Museum. Visitors may also enjoy a city walking tour based on locations featured in the prize-winning book 'Angela's Ashes'. This is Frank McCourt’s renowned recount of his impoverished Limerick boyhood in the 1930's and 40's that was subsequently turned into a major film. The city hosts many festivals throughout the year and has vibrant art and music scene underpinned by the Belltable Arts Centre and Irish Chamber Orchestra.
Despite all this history, many a stranger may find the term Limerick more familiar as a type of five line humorous verse. The poem’s connection to Limerick is however obscure. The name is generally taken to be a reference to the city or county from an early form of nonsense verse. This would traditionally include a refrain that included the line ‘Will (or won't) you come (up) to Limerick?’
From a boating perspective, Limerick is the stepping stone into Ireland’s Inland Waterways lock and canal system. Small vessels may wait for a tide or larger vessels may un-step a mast in the wet dock in order to proceed upriver. The extensive canal system is navigable as far as Northern Ireland’s Loch Erne, via the Shannon Erne Waterway, and Dublin via the Grand Canal. These canals are subject to draft and free height restrictions of which further information may be obtained from the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.
Those carrying any airdraft. that do not wish to un-step the mast, will find this the furthest reach of the Shannon. Half a mile above the dry dock the Mallow Street Bridge crosses the river with a vertical clearance of 3.3 metres. However, the opportunity to visit the historic city of Limerick is very much worthy of the upriver trip.
What facilities are available?Fuel is available by arrangement with a road tanker or by jerry cans; and fresh water by tap in the dock. The dock has no slipway but crane services are available to lift rigs and lift vessels of less than 20 tons dead weight. With a population of approximately 55,000 Limerick is the third largest city in Ireland and the principal city for the Mid-West Region so it has all provisions available in abundance.
Likewise, transport communications are excellent to the major population centres of Ireland. Iarnród Éireann's Colbert Station offers direct services to Dublin and Cork (serving intermediate stations), plus many other destinations – note there is no rail link to the airport. The City Centre bus service, provided by Bus Éireann and other, offer a host of other additional destinations. Limerick's central location and primary Shannon Bridge means many important national primary routes converge on the city. The M7 (Dublin), N/M18 (Galway, Shannon), N/M20 (Cork), N21 (Tralee) and N24 (Waterford) routes all start/terminate in or near the city.
International travel is catered for by Shannon Airport, 20 km west of the city in County Clare, that is easily accessible by Limerick passengers due to the opening of the Limerick Tunnel. It has scheduled flights to European and North American destinations. Airlines using the airport include Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Delta Air Lines.
Any security concerns?The port is a walled off area with no public access. The facility has day time security plus a night watchman.
With thanks to:Jim White Deputy Harbour Master Limerick.
Aerial views of Limerick
An aerial view of Limerick and the River Shannon
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