Belfast Harbour reveals record profits of almost £30m
Belfast Harbour has posted record pre-tax profits of almost £30m, buoyed by a growth in trade and cruise ships passing through the port. The "critical artery" in Northern Ireland's economy posted turnover of more than £52m in the last financial year.
Profits were up by 8% - rising to £29.4m in the year ending December 2014.
It is Northern Ireland's main gateway for importing and exporting, and also handles cruise ships and cargo ships as well as owning and operating the entire harbour estate.
That includes major developments such as the City Quays office development project, which now houses staff working for the world's largest law firm, Baker & McKenzie.
And a record 23m tonnes passed through the Harbour during 2015 - with a fifth consecutive year of a grow and an almost 50% rise since the recessions low point in 2009.
Belfast Harbour spent more than £13m in the last year, with the majority spent on the City Quays 1 development, along with dock and quay upgrades.
And almost 500,000 vehicles passed through the port in the last financial year, with a further seven million tonnes in dry bulk trade.
New chairman David Dobbin - Dale Farm Group chief executive - said Belfast Harbour is spending some £120m on a series of pipeline investments.
"Projects include a bespoke cruise facility and addressing the continuing shortage of grade A office accommodation in Belfast by further developing the City Quays scheme," he said.
"Last week the board approved a £20m spend on the City Quays 2 building."
And once it's finished, the £250m City Quays project is predicted to "support 10,000 jobs and generate £11m in rates income".
Some cargoes - such as coal and animal feed - brought dry bulk trade to more than seven million tonnes for the first time.
And the "hugely positive" latest figures from Belfast Harbour make it "one of Northern Ireland's wealthiest businesses," according to economist John Simpson.
"The harbour is now in competition with the Titanic Quarter in that area, and Belfast Harbour has the financial reserves," he said. "It is a very major and critical artery of the Northern Ireland economy. We also need to look at what we are doing with places like Londonderry and Warrenpoint. But Belfast is now in a league of its own."
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy welcomed the latest results and said: "I would also like to acknowledge the role that Belfast Harbour plays, not only in economic terms, but as a business in the community."
But Mr Dobbin said there was "little room for complacency" given how fragile the recovery has been, along with the negative impact strong sterling has had on Northern Ireland exports.