Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy pledged today to create the " right legislative environment" to enable Northern Ireland's ports to take maximum advantage of the all-island economy.
The Minister was speaking at the inaugural Ports and Airports Infrastructure Conference, which took place in Dublin.
Mr Murphy is currently completing a review of the future of Northern Ireland's three trust ports of Belfast, Warrenpoint and Londonderry.
He told the conference that his aim through the review was to ensure that the ports could "continue to thrive and develop" and avail of the all-island market.
Mr Murphy said Northern Ireland's ports were key economic gateways, handling as they do 95% of the province's external trade.
He said: "The gateway ports also offer the potential of clustering economic development to create strong magnets for regional growth to the benefit of everyone on this island."
The conference was arranged in conjunction with the CBI-IBEC joint business panel and InterTradeIreland, the knowledge-based business development body whose aim is to foster cross-border trade.
A panel debate was led by the chief executives from Ireland's five biggest ports - Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Warrenpoint.