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Belfast Harbour on crest of a wave as profits hit £17m

Belfast Harbour is helping put Northern Ireland back on the maritime map after reporting an increase in profits to £17.8m and an increase in turnover to £36.1m .

The facility handles 60% of Northern Ireland's sea-borne trade and is a vital gateway for raw materials, exports and consumer goods for the entire island.

The port is also Northern Ireland's leading logistics and distribution hub and is home to many well-known local businesses such as the George Best City Airport, Harland -amp; Wolff, Bombardier, Odyssey, the NI Science Park and Titanic Quarter.

The port's latest annual report also showed that the number of freight vehicles passing through the complex rose by 14% to 357,000 and a record four million tonnes were handled in the dry bulk sector, which includes trades such as aggregates and coal.

Record levels of tonnages were handled during the period - up 7% to 17.6m tonnes.

During 2011, passenger numbers passing through the harbour remained static at 1.3m whilst there were 32 cruise ship calls with 58,000 passengers and crew.

More than 40 cruise ships, however, will be calling in 2012, encouraged by the opening of Titanic Belfast.

During the year, Belfast Harbour also benefited from a number of developments on the Irish Sea, including the opening of Stena Line's new Scottish terminal at Loch Ryan and the introduction of two larger and more modern vessels on the route. It was also noted that Stena Line completed its takeover of the DFDS Belfast-Birkenhead and Heysham services.

Capital expenditure projects valued at £18.3m were completed in 2010-11. A further £53.8m was committed to additional projects at the year end, principally the development of the UK's first dedicated offshore wind logistics terminal for DONG Energy.

Len O'Hagan, Belfast Harbour's chairman, said that despite ongoing sluggishness in both the UK and Irish economies, Belfast Harbour has posted a very strong set of results for 2011.

"Significant uncertainty, however, still exists in the global economy, with the UK officially falling back into recession and the continuing eurozone crisis which is undermining business confidence throughout the continent and beyond," he said.