Dublin Ships

Dublin Ships is a temporary public artwork commissioned by Dublin City Council as part of the Dublin City Public Art Programme. 

The artwork is generated via a live electronic information system (an Automatic Identification System, or AIS) which tracks the locations of ships. The names of the most recently arrived and most recently departed ships from Dublin Port are output to two large LED screens sited at the Scherzer Bridges beside the Samuel Beckett Bridge. 

The artwork is concerned with the meanings and poetic qualities of ship names. The ship names include allusions to maritime trade, cargoes, historical figures and distant places. The juxtaposition of the two ship names generates a form of poetic writing. The work also attempts to interrupt the speed of instantaneous data and returns it to the speed of movement of real entities in space. 

View the log.

Dublin Port

"The sights of ships entering and leaving the port day and night throughout the year spark the imaginations of most people, but unless you go far eastwards along the quays or out along the coast, the movement of ships will be unseen by most."
Eamonn O'Reilly
CEO Dublin Port Company.

Read On…

How it works

Ships transmit their location through an Automatic Identification System (AIS) using their callsigns as identifiers. Two receiving antennae have been set up on land stations in line-of-sight with Dublin Bay and Dublin Port. The information gathered by the antennae is exchanged in real time with an online database (Marinetraffic.com) which parses the information and gives us the names of the vessels. This information is processed via the internet and output to the screens in public space. 

Read On…

Systems at Sea: on Cliona Harmey

The container ships that frequently dock in Dublin Port are representative of the biggest moving objects that humans have ever produced. Yet despite the almost sublime mass of these ships, in general they are but tiny elements in much bigger systems. They provide the necessary physical connections in the virtual networks of global communication and control. Without these ships the world system would stutter and atrophy. Without the objects they transport modern environments and lifestyles would be untenable.

Read On…

The Sherzer Bridges

The Scherzer Bridges on the North Quays, one set at Custom House Quay, the other on North Wall Quay, near the Samuel Beckett Bridge, serve as a reminder of the industrial past of the area. These were constructed to a design patented by William Scherzer of Chicago and installed in 1912. The bridges were built to allow water-based traffic to access the Royal Canal and Spencer Dock, and operated as lock gates between the River Liffey to keep seawater out of the docks and canal.

No longer in use due to the removal of their diesel engines and their roadway surfaces, when operational traffic could be stopped; bridges lifted to allow a ship through and closed again in four and a half minutes. The Scherzer Bridges are a form of bascule bridge (from the French term for "balance scale") which uses counterweights to lift the bridges quickly and with the use of relatively little energy. In this case the counterweights are the large rectangular structures (on which the LED signs for Dublin Ships are displayed) and these were filled with water, enabling the bridges to lift.

Dublin City Council’s Public Art Programme

Dublin City Council’s Public Art Programme offers opportunities for artists to engage with the city, making new work that responds to the context of Dublin as the capital of Ireland, both an international city and one of communities and localities. The Programme intends to create connections and collaborations between different areas of Dublin City Council’s work as well as interconnections between art, city and the public.



In Spring, 2015, Dublin City Council and Dublin Port invited children to go on a journey. 

Fourth and sixth classes from St Lawrence’s Girls National School, St Lawrence’s Boys National School (Sheriff Street), St Joseph’s National School (East Wall) and St Patrick’s Girls National School (Ringsend), questioned, explored and responded to Dublin Port as a fascinating area of Dublin City and to how Cliona Harmey developed the public artwork Dublin Ships. 

Read On…

The Artist

Cliona Harmey has been active as an artist since the mid ‘90s. She studied sculpture at the National College of Art & Design, did a one-year residency at Arthouse Multimedia Centre, a HDip in Computer Science at UCD and has an MA in Visual Art Practices from IADT. She works in the Fine Art - Media Department at NCAD and is based at Pallas Projects/Studios, Dublin. 

Read On…

Ruairí Ó Cuív

Ruairí Ó Cuív is an independent curator and arts consultant who is working as Public Art Manager for Dublin City Council.

Dublin City Council

Dublin Ships was commissioned by Dublin City Council as part of the Dublin City Public Art Programme – Strand 2 – Interaction with the City, under the Per Cent for Art Scheme with funding from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and in partnership with Dublin Port Company and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority.

Ruadhán O’Donoghue

Ruadhán O'Donoghue is a web and mobile developer and consultant, based in Berlin and Dublin. He graduated from UCD Computer Science in 1998, and is currently editor and contributor of mobiForge, a developer site focussing on mobile web technologies. Previously he worked at dotMobi as Head of Engineering, creating mobile solutions for companies worldwide. Before that he lectured in Multimedia & Internet Programming at IADT.

Thanks to…

Ruairí Ó Cuív and Niamh O’Doherty at Dublin City Public Art Programme / Dublin City Council / Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government / Ruadhán O'Donoghue for programming / Daniel Cussen at TOG for help and advice re AIS / Przemek Gorzelanczyk of Alpha View Signage / Demitris Memos and Savvas Kampouridis at Marinetraffic.com / Gráinne Shaffrey and Eamonn Kehoe at Shaffrey Associates / Architects Tim Murnane, Hopewell Kawonza and Ross Somers at Punch Murnane Consulting Engineers / 
Eamonn O'Reilly and Charlie Murphy at Dublin Port Company for support/ Paul McAdam, Paul Cooper, Andrei Katsko, Anthony Rogers, Gary Keville at Traffic Management Limited 
/ Paul Clegg and Clara Hickey at DDDA / Michael Kenny, Senior Engineer / Dublin City Council Waste Water Treatment Plant for hosting an antenna / Matthew Harmey and Patricia Spillane for hosting an antenna / Francis Halsall for writing text / Liz Coman / Brian, Kevin and Johnny at AAD / Feargal Fitzpatrick and the Fine Art - Media Department / David Lacey and the artist's friends and family for support and encouragement.


Please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with any queries about Dublin Ships. Our press release PDF can be downloaded here. We can be found on Facebook and Twitter.