Belfast Harbour trade rises 600,000 tonnes to record 23.7m tonnes
Weak performance of sterling boosts some of North’s exporters
Overall container traffic, agrifood and aggregates trade all increased through Belfast Harbour last year. Photograph: iStock
Belfast Harbour handled a record 23.7 million tonnes of trade and more than 1.5 million ferry passengers last year, according to latest figures.
The total tonnage handled by the port, which currently accounts for about 70 per cent of the North’s seaborne trade, rose year on year by 600,000 tonnes in 2017, helped in part by sterling’s weak performance during the year, which delivered a significant boost to some of the North’s exporters.
But while the latest figures showed strong growth in ferry and cruise ship trade – a record 155,000 cruise visitors called in Belfast last year – some of the harbour’s more traditional trade, such as imports of power station coal, showed a decline in tonnage during 2017.
This was in contrast to certain imports such as steel, chiefly destined for the heavy manufacturing and construction sectors, which rose by 14 per cent to a high of 211,000 tonnes.
The harbour also handled a significant amount of trade related to its ongoing offshore wind terminal development, which resulted in 305,000 tonnes of wind farm components coming ashore last year.
Overall container traffic, agrifood and aggregates trade all increased through the port last year.
Freight traffic on Stena Line’s ro-ro (roll on/roll off) services grew to a record 514,000 vehicles fuelled mainly by increased orders for the North’s agrifood produce.
This in turn resulted in an increase in demand for animal feeds and grains, which rose by 11 per cent to 2.2 million tonnes, while container traffic in general jumped by 1.6 per cent to more than 125,000 units.
Belfast Harbour chairman David Dobbin has warned that the harbour could face certain challenges in 2018 because of “changes in our business environment”.
“The good news is that we anticipated these trends and have invested more than £250 million in the last 10 years in infrastructure and facilities to support the growth sectors and future-proof the business,” he said.
“We are also in the process of making significant investments in ferry and container handling facilities, new cranes and materials handlers, and in new logistics and storage facilities.”