Posted on Wednesday 26 June 2013 by Ulster Business
The Harbour Authority also said in its annual report that turnover rose by 7% to £39m and profit before tax climbed by 12% to £19.9m. During the period the Harbour also paid over £6m in tax.
The strong performance reflected a record year for tonnages handled, up 11% to 19.6m tonnes. The growth in trade was particularly good in sectors such as Dry Bulk Cargo (up 16%), which is closely related to the island's agri-food industry, and Roll-On / Roll-Off (freight vehicles) which increased by 21%.
Both sectors have benefitted in recent years from investments by the Harbour in new marine infrastructure such as enhanced deep-water facilities and quayside cranes. Stena Line, which operates routes from Belfast to Scotland and England, has also invested in new ships and a new terminal in Cairnryan.
Len O'Hagan, Belfast Harbour's Chairman, said: "Although the difficult economic climate is still continuing to impede business activity, particularly in the construction sector, consistent investments by the Harbour in new infrastructure and new sectors such as renewable energy are helping the business to perform well.
"I'm particularly pleased that in its 400th anniversary, the Harbour is able to reveal that it invested a record £47m in capital infrastructure during the preceding year. These funds, generated entirely from the Harbour's revenue streams, have helped position Belfast as one of UK's leading renewable energy ports with over 200 engineers already working at the new DONG Energy terminal.
"The Harbour has also deepened the Victoria Channel to accommodate ever larger vessels and facilitated the ongoing regeneration of the Harbour Estate, including a £6m investment to support a new facility at the Northern Ireland Science Park which is now fully let to four hi-tech firms employing 270."
2012 was the first full year of operations for Stena on its Belfast – Cairnryan route with two Superfast ferries. The new port at Cairnryan, coupled with greater reliability of service from the new vessels, contributed towards a significant increase in freight traffic, as did the introduction of newer, larger vessels on Stena's Belfast – Heysham route.
Mr O'Hagan added: "Belfast Harbour remains a cornerstone of the local economy with around 65% of Northern Ireland's seaborne trade passing through the Port. Ensuring that the Harbour and its Estate continue to support the local economy, however, does not come cheaply.
"At present the Harbour provides 7km of working quays, a 32km road network, 2m sq ft of warehouse and logistics space, Ireland's longest deep-water berth and the largest operational port crane in these islands.
"Last year it also handled 1.4m ferry passengers and 75,000 cruise ship passengers and crew. In the past ten years £190m has been invested in new facilities and new business sectors to ensure that the Harbour maximizes its contribution to the Northern Ireland economy. Last year's strong financial performance will underpin plans for significant infrastructure projects in the future."