The Government plans to use private equity investors to fund the expansion of Irish ports but it has ruled out selling off strategically important facilities.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar told RTÉ News a study by the Competition Authority into Ireland's ports would examine whether Dublin Port had an economically dominant position.

Minister Varadkar said "Dublin Port is hugely successful with 40% of our GDP going through it. Part of our study will look at whether it is profitable because it is dominant or because it is very competitive.

"It is operating a competitive model with different terminals competing with each other. We want to make sure our traders and exporters are getting the best value out of State companies."

He said the Government wanted 30% of profits from ports paid to the State in dividends.

He also said that the Government is very much open to private equity investment in ports but it did not have plans to sell any of the ports that are strategically important. He said that private money could be invested ports.

At present, the facilities do not get State aid or capital funding.

In a statement from Dublin Port Company issued today, it said the company manages the port and "runs a competitive port management model where eight independent terminal operators compete vigorously for trade."

It added that Dublin Port Company notes "the Competition Authority Review and looks forward to engaging with the Authority as it carries out its work."

Earlier today, it was announced that the Competition Authority is to carry out an in depth study of ports in Ireland.

The study has been requested by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton. Almost all of Ireland's major ports are State owned.