Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Harbour enjoys record pre-tax profits of £36m

An aerial view of Belfast harbour
An aerial view of Belfast harbour
The City Quays Development
An offshore wind installation vessel

By John Mulgrew

Belfast Harbour has seen pre-tax profits rise by 7% to £35.8m, but has said Brexit will see the "greatest change" to trading relationships in more than 40 years.

The port and property developer, which handles more than two-thirds of Northern Ireland's sea trade, also saw turnover rise - up by 7%, to £58.1m for the year ending December 2016.

In its annual report, the 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.

Overall tonnage in the 'dry bulk' sector, which includes things like grain, fell by 1.5% to 6.5 million tonnes. But it said there was strong trading in areas such as coal and cement.

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It added a record 82 cruise ships brought in 145,000 passengers in 2016.

Work is due to finish on the second City Quays office building this year. As for City Quay 3, which will be the largest of the harbour's office developments so far, it could be completed by the end of 2019.

Earlier this year, the harbour submitted plans for the £46m building which will have 16 storeys with the potential to house 3,000 workers.

Its construction is expected to bring jobs for up to 600 builders.

David Dobbin, Belfast Harbour chairman, said that it had been "another highly successful year".

"Every penny of our net profit is reinvested in the development of the harbour's port and property activities, supporting businesses throughout Northern Ireland," he added.

"As is the case in the port sector the scale of these benefits to the wider economy is considerably in excess of the direct economic benefit to Belfast Harbour itself."

Other major developments this year included the completion of new film studios.

And a new television show set on Superman's home planet of Krypton is now due be filmed at the location.

The 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.

"Total capital expenditure during 2016 was £41.7m and in addition, a further £105m has been committed at the 2016 year-end to strategically significant projects", the harbour said.

Mr Dobbin said: "Belfast Harbour has an ambitious investment pipeline which will continue to drive our business and enhance the capacity of Northern Ireland's economy, creating jobs and maintaining Belfast Harbour as the region's most important access point to the global marketplace."

Belfast Telegraph