In 1967, the Gulf Oil Corporation built a crude oil terminal on Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay Harbour, making Bantry a boom town for a time. However, in 1979, a tanker exploded at the jetty, killing 43 crewmen and severely damaging the terminal. Many locals lost their jobs as a result, and there was serious environmental damage that hurt the local fishing economy. Since then, the economy of Bantry Bay Harbour has been largely based on tourism, aquaculture, and some industry.
In the early 1990s, the Irish government invested in restoring the Bantry Bay Harbour terminal to store oil during the first Gulf War. Continued funding brought further development to Bantry Bay Harbour, and the terminal was declared “open for business” in 1998. Several American oil companies purchased the terminal from the government.
The Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners are the authorized port authority for Bantry Bay Harbour. Today, the oil terminal is part of the ConocoPhillips Corporation, and it is operating at full capacity. Today, up to 40 ships berth at Bantry Bay Harbour each year, and the rising price of oil has led to planning for future expansions of the terminal.
While most of the vessels passing through the port are tankers and bulk cargo ships, some cruise ships stop at Glengarriff on the Bay’s northern shores or the Inner Bantry Bay Harbour.