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Gateway Belfast port boasts record year - and pledges £100m new spend

Belfast Port enjoyed a record-breaking year in 2015
Gary McDonald Business Editor

TRADING through Belfast Harbour hit record levels in 2015 as turnover rose by 3.4 per cent to £54.3 million and pre-tax profits lifted by 2.3 per cent to just shy of £30m, its annual report has revealed.

And the port - which handles 70 per cent of Northern Ireland’s seaborne trade and 20 per cent of the entire island’s - confirmed that new projects worth £100 million are either under way or due to commence by the end of this year.

“It's been an excellent trading year for Belfast Harbour with 23 million tonnes of cargo being handled by the port during 2015," its chairman David Dobbin said.

"We’re also pleased to report on the completion and progress of a number of ambitious investments which are driving the ongoing regeneration of the harbour estate."

He added: “Our role is to continue to manage, maintain and develop the resources of the harbour, and optimise outcomes for our customers and the wider regional economy.

"All of our earnings are re-invested in projects such as improved container and quayside handling facilities, dockside cranes or the award-winning City Quays office development. Work is also well under way on our new film studios and we hope to announce a contractor and brand operator for a new hotel at City Quays in the coming weeks.”

Last year was the second busiest on record for imports and exports through Belfast Harbour, reflecting its long-term policy of developing best-in-class marine facilities.

This included the purchase and order of two modern pilot boats, improved roll-on/roll-off handling facilities and improved bulk storage capacity for customers operating in the salt and fertiliser sectors.

Property developments progressed by Belfast Harbour included the completion of City Quays 1 (now fully let to high calibre international occupiers), the commencement of work on its 124,000 sq ft sister office, the securing of planning for a four-star hotel at City Quays and the start of work this year on a new 130,000 sq ft film studio.

The report highlighted continued growth in Belfast’s main routes to Scotland and England with the Belfast – Liverpool Stena service recording the strongest performance with a 4 per cent increase.

Preparatory work on a new coal processing plant also continued and the Harbour provided leases to Titanic Foundation Ltd to facilitate the restoration and conversion of the former Harland & Wolff headquarters building in Titanic Quarter into a boutique hotel.

2015 PORT HIGHIGHTS

:: Record breaking 1.5m tonnes of stone was exported, up 93,000 tonnes (or 6 per cent) on the previous year.

:: Cement exports were up 76 per cent on 2014 (up to 199,000 tonnes).

:: Grain and animal feed imports fell by 9 per cent, with just under 2m tonnes of commodity handled

:: Coal volumes handled decreased to 2.2m tonnes as a result of a reduced intake by Kilroot Power Station.

:: Liquid bulk reached a five-year high at 2.3m tonnes (kerosene 843,000 tonnes, diesel and petrol 854,000)

:: Steel and paper both increased slightly to 125,000 and 115,000 tonnes respectively.

:: For the third consecutive year RoRo freight volumes delivered record volumes with 481,000 freight vehicles handled in 2015.

:: Volumes on the Belfast-Liverpool route continued to perform strongly, up by 4 per cent on 2014 levels.

:: The total number of containers handled decreased by 2 per cent to 123,254 units.

:: The Port’s ferry services carried 1,381,000 passengers between Belfast and Britain - comparable to 2014.

:: The number of visitors arriving on cruise ships in 2015 was 110,000 (similar to 2014).

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