Warrenpoint Harbour signs 10-year extension to deal with Irish freight company
Warrenpoint Harbour in Co Down is hoping a new freight contract will secure its position as the province's second busiest port for freight. The harbour authority has announced a 10-year extension to its arrangement with Dublin-based freight firm Seatruck Ferries.
It follows major investment in Warrenpoint's port facilities, including a recent £1.3m dredging project.
It's another piece of good news for the region's waterways, after the launch last week of a new ferry service between nearby Greencastle and Greenore in Co Louth.
But business organisations in the region say the Newry area, around six miles from Warrenpoint, still requires a southern relief road to combat traffic pressures.
The road would link the A1 Dublin Road - described as "key strategic route" - to the A2 Warrenpoint Road, which leads to Warrenpoint Port.
Seatruck is now the largest tonnage operator in Warrenpoint and had the fastest percentage freight growth of any Northern Ireland ferry service during last year.
It has operated a twice-daily ferry between Warrenpoint and Lancashire for 21 years.
As part of the new agreement, Warrenpoint Harbour said it would provide more terminal space if needed for future growth.
Alistair Eagles, chief executive of Seatruck Ferries, added: "Warrenpoint is where the Seatruck story began, and we are absolutely delighted to extend our agreement with the port and in turn our commitment to the local area.
"The wider financial benefits of having a successful port in this area should not be underestimated.
"Warrenpoint Harbour is the economic heartbeat of Newry and the Mournes and more widely on both sides of the border."
Warrenpoint Harbour Authority chief executive Peter Conway said: "Seatruck is a fast-growing, innovative ferry operator with a long and successful history at Warrenpoint.
"Together, both companies hope to continue to grow the business and to provide and develop this modern, cross-channel roll-on-roll-off service. Seatruck is the port's largest customer and this new deal demonstrated its commitment to the port and the region for the long term.
"As Northern Ireland's second general cargo port, Warrenpoint Harbour is a major economic driver for its local region, and its position halfway between Dublin and Belfast on the island of Ireland is a major benefit in attracting business.
"North-south connectivity in a post-Brexit era will be all the more important and we will continue to lobby for the construction of the Newry southern relief road to further improve access to the major road networks across both parts of this island."