Titanic helps draw record visitors
Tourists keen to explore the Titanic's heritage helped trade at Belfast Harbour to a record high.
The number of cruise ship holidaymakers rose by 40% last year - 75,000 passengers called at the city - drawn by attractions like visitors' centre Titanic Belfast, a port spokesman said.
Roy Adair, harbour chief executive, said: "It's greatly encouraging for Belfast Harbour to once again be able to report such a positive set of trade figures. Growth across a number of sectors reaffirms Belfast's position as one of the most efficient ports in these islands and helps benchmark the harbour's ongoing contribution to the Northern Ireland economy."
A harbour spokesman said major investment by the port and Stena Line in new terminals on both sides of the Irish Sea, plus new superfast ferries, had significantly enhanced the competitiveness of the Belfast - Cairnryan route.
"Passenger numbers using the port's ferry services increased by 11% to almost 1.4 million, reflecting the growing popularity of holidays at home and major boosts to Northern Ireland's tourist sector with the opening of Titanic Belfast and the new Giant's Causeway visitor centre," the spokesman added. "The Titanic effect was even more evident in the cruise sector with 45 ships and 75,000 visitors calling at Belfast in 2012, a rise of 40% since 2011."
Almost 20 million tonnes of trade were handled, much of the increase because of improved freight vehicle performance, the spokesman added.
A record 4.6 million tonnes of dry bulk goods were handled, a jump of 16%, including two million tonnes of grain and animal feeds, the highest tonnage ever recorded by the harbour in this sector.
An additional 600,000 tonnes of coal were also processed, reflecting recent investments by the harbour in deep-water facilities allowing it to take coal imports for the power station at Kilroot. Deliveries were over a million tonnes for the first time since 1996.
The number of freight vehicles passing through the port increased to 432,000, up 21% since 2011.
Liquid bulk imports remained steady compared with the previous year while container traffic fell by 5% as consumer demand slumped. Construction imports like timber also continued to decline. Steel imports rose by a tenth.