Belfast Harbour names O'Neill as new chief executive as plans continue for more development
Belfast Harbour has appointed a new chief executive, just months after boss Roy Adair announced he is retiring from the role, it can be revealed. Joe O'Neill, who is currently commercial director, will take over from Mr Adair when he retires in the spring.
Mr O'Neill joined Belfast Harbour in 1997, and in the last 20 years has held a number of roles.
He was commercial manager and port manager before he was appointed as commercial director in 2005.
Belfast Harbour is one of the most profitable businesses in Northern Ireland, with pre-tax profits rising by 7% to £35.8m in the last year.
David Dobbin, chairman of Belfast Harbour, said: "I am delighted to confirm that Belfast Harbour's commercial director Joe O'Neill has been appointed as chief executive of the business, replacing Roy Adair who has held the position since 2005.
"Joe has 20 years' experience working for Belfast Harbour in various management roles.
"He is a biochemistry graduate of Queen's University and holds an MBA from Ulster University.
"Roy will step down in spring 2018 and I would like to wish him all the best for his retirement and Joe all the best in his new role."
Before joining Belfast Harbour, Mr O'Neill was previously quality manager for Cantrell and Cochrane Ltd. He is also chairman of the MAC theatre's board of trustees.
Belfast Harbour has invested more than £400m over the past 20 years across the massive 3,000-acre estate. It also said, as of December 2016, its "liquid funds" stood at £60.4m, "all of which is committed to future projects". That includes further development of City Quays, and new, high-capacity cranes.
In its annual report, Belfast Harbour said growth was led by greater levels of trade through the port as well a boost in property income.
More than 23 million tonnes passed through the harbour in 2016. That was up around 1%.
Ferry passenger numbers grew strongly in 2016, up 9% to 1.5m, the highest level since 2004.
The harbour said it invested £42m in the last year. That was up from £18m a year earlier.
Mr Adair is to step down from his post after 12 years.
He previously held positions with Rothmans International, Flexibox International and the Northern Ireland Quality Centre, where he was the organisation's first chief executive.
And during his period in charge of the business, he has overseen growth in port trade activities and the expansion of the property side of the business, which has seen the City Quays development emerge along the waterfront, delivering grade-A office space.
Just last month, it emerged that Mr Adair is being given an international award for his work.
The Ireland-US Council will present its Cuchulainn Award to Mr Adair, for his work in developing and diversifying Belfast Harbour into areas including property.
"The Ireland-US Council has always played a pivotal role in the development of trans-Atlantic trade links and relationships, something which will become even more valuable in the post-Brexit era," Mr Adair said.