Warrenpoint Port set for an expansion worth more than £2m to meet growing demand
Warrenpoint Port is set for an expansion worth more than £2m to meet growing export demand, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The Co Down harbour is inviting expressions of interest to construct a huge 6,000 tonne multi-silo site to deal with cement - one of its biggest exports.
The ambitious proposals also include a 500-tonne-an-hour ship-loading facility.
The contract will cover the design, supply and construction of the additions to the burgeoning entry and exit point.
It comes after the business set a record for the tonnage of cargo going through the port in a year.
More than 3.1m tonnes passed through in 2014 - up by 4% on the previous year.
During the same period, the port reached a turnover of more than £5m for the first time.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, finance director Kieran Grant said the harbour had enjoyed a "record year" and was set to meet increasing demand.
"The new development will be six or eight silos on the port side used for cement, which we are currently exporting. It's designed to meet increased demand in the cement market."
He explained how much of the increased demand was from the greater London area, and how the new system would allow cement to be loaded onto ships more quickly, helping cut labour and time costs.
"The port is going from strength to strength," Mr Grant added. "It's still a fluid market, but there are signs in part of growth in the economy. Because of our location - we are halfway between Belfast and Dublin - we have noticed timber imports increasing, for example.
"We feel that's down to an increase in the housing market in greater Dublin."
The harbour currently employs 65 staff, but it sees hundreds of workers going through its busy yards daily.
Aside from cement, the port deals with a host of raw materials and products.
That includes timber, steel, animal feed imports and recyclable metals.
In its latest annual report, the burgeoning harbour said its boost in trade was "particularly impressive at a time when port activity in Ireland generally grew by just over 2%".
Profits before tax fell slightly to £784,000 for the year, down from £850,000 a year earlier.
The business is one that, like so many others, has had to deal with currency fluctuations and market slumps globally. "If you take the euro, it's swings and roundabouts where we are located," Mr Grant said. "If you have euro imports coming in, and they are serving a sterling market, there is a big plus."
Aside from the expansion, Warrenpoint Port also welcomed its first cruise ship this year - something Mr Grant said he wanted to build on in order to increase footfall and tourism in the area.
In its report, the firm said that during the course of 2015 it was "expecting more activity at the port, with a planning application already in place for the construction of seven tanks to hold carbon dioxide for the food and drink sectors in Ireland".
"We will also seek to further develop the available land on the recently acquired site at the Newry Road," it added.