The growth of the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland has been credited with boosting trade at Belfast Harbour, with profits up 5% to £34.7m.
The facility's 2010 annual report revealed that trade at the port has risen by 5.4 to 16.4m tonnes and that a record two million tonnes of grain and animal feed were imported into Belfast.
Imports of fertiliser products also jumped by 32%
This growth reflects moves to establish Belfast as the island's leading dry bulk port.
Belfast Harbour handles 60% of Northern Ireland's seaborne trade and the port is home to well-known businesses including George Best City Airport, Harland -amp; Wolff, the Odyssey complex, the NI Science Park, Titanic Quarter and Bombardier, which last week called for a direct shipping service to North America from the port.
Freight vehicle traffic also increased by 2% to 313,000 vehicles carried, partly in response to the introduction of new, larger vessels on the Belfast-Heysham route.
Profits before taxation stood at £17.4m.
Capital investments worth almost £6m were undertaken during 2010 and capital expenditure projects in excess of £60m were initiated during the year.
Work included the purchase of a new mobile crane, a 10,000 sq ft expansion in logistics space and preparations for a new offshore wind turbine terminal for Scandinavian renewables firm DONG Energy.
Developments within Belfast Harbour Estate included projects at Titanic Quarter such as the Public Record Office, Belfast Metropolitan College and the 'Titanic Belfast' visitor attraction.
Plans for City Quays, a 24-acre mixed-use development adjacent to the Harbour Office were secured and planning permission for an additional 230,000 sq ft of space at Sydenham Business Park was lodged.
Initial work has been completed on a marina at Abercorn Basin with plans now under way for the development of a 250-berth leisure facility.
Belfast Harbour chairman, Len O'Hagan, said that although the increases are small, the figures suggest that business confidence is starting to return, albeit slowly.