Belfast Harbour notches up a record £30m pre-tax profit on back of hike in goods handled
Belfast Harbour has posted record pre-tax profits of almost £30m, buoyed by an overall boost in goods handled and freight volumes.
The port, which handles more than two-thirds of Northern Ireland's sea trade, saw turnover rise by 3.4% to £54.3m last year.
But there was a drop in the number of cruise ship passengers passing through the harbour, falling from 112,000 to 110,000.
There were also declines in some exports, linked to a slowdown in the agrifood sector.
The harbour deals with around 23 million tonnes and 1.4 million passengers each year.
On top of the positive results, Belfast Harbour has £100m worth of new projects either under way or in the pipeline for the next six months.
That includes the expansion of the City Quays development - with the second office building now well under way - a hotel and a car park, and an additional third office yet to come.
Hotels company Marriott is set to take on the new City Quays development in the harbour with its AC Hotels brand.
The port said a record 1.5 million tonnes of stone was exported last year, alongside a 76% increase in cement exports.
Belfast Harbour's chairman David Dobbin indicated that the business had enjoyed an "excellent trading year".
"Our role is to continue to manage, maintain and develop the resources of the harbour, and optimize outcomes for our customers and the wider regional economy," he said.
"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 grade A 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 within the coming weeks.
"These investments are resulting in new jobs and improved regional competitiveness. Belfast Harbour is committed to helping the Northern Ireland economy grow and prosper."
The port handled what it said was a record volume of freight vehicles during the course of the year, up 1%, rising to 481,000.
The harbour has invested approximately £400m over the past 20 years across the massive 3,000 acre estate.
The business has around 700 tenants. That includes everything from hauliers and freight and shipping firms to legal companies and various technology businesses.
Despite the positive results, a number of the company's areas suffered small drops, with dry bulk cargo seeing its first decline since 2009.
The harbour said that was largely brought about by the impact of global forces affecting the grain and feeds sector.
Grain and animal feed imports fell by 9%, which the firm said reflected the "much documented challenges facing the farming and agrifood sectors".
Coal volumes also fell to 2.2 million tonnes. That decline was attributed to a reduced intake by Kilroot Power Station.
However, liquid bulk, which includes gas and oil, reached a five-year high, increasing to 2.3 million tonnes.
The number of containers handled by the harbour fell by 2%, to 123,254. It said this reflected the reduction in exports in agrifood and the "closure of some key Northern Ireland manufacturing accounts".
Speaking about the progress of its new City Quays 2 development, the port added it "feels that the speculative building of the project will prove helpful in Invest NI's objective of securing both new entrants to the Northern Ireland market".
It also said the new North Foreshore Film Studios would be finished by the end of this year.