For many countries, ports are critical to trade flows. If they operate efficiently, the whole economy benefits – and if not it suffers. Worldwide, they have recently been candidates for commercialisation or even privatisation. This case history describes the commercialisation process in the Irish Republic, which gave leading ports freedom to manage their own affairs as separate, independent, publicly-owned companies. The country's unprecedented economic growth, which was export-led, increased the pressure on the ports sector and may even have masked continuing inefficiencies and difficulties at individual ports. The Irish Government is now pressing ahead with reform of the remaining, smaller ports, using the experience of the first phase of commercialisation.