Belfast Harbour handled record 24.6 million tonnes of cargo in 2018

Trade at the port increased by more than 900,000 tonnes during the year

Belfast Harbour. Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Belfast Harbour handled a record 24.6 million tonnes of cargo last year thanks to a major increase in the number of freight vehicles passing through the port, which rose to a high of 532,000, latest figures show.

Trade at the port increased by more than 900,000 tonnes during 2018, as the total number of freight vehicles using Stena Line, which introduced a third larger ship on the Belfast to Liverpool route, grew 3 per cent.

The transport company has confirmed that two of its new E-Flexer RoPax vessels, which are currently under construction in China, will operate on the Belfast to Liverpool route from next year and in 2021.

The latest trading report from Belfast Harbour shows imports and exports of industrial coal by the Cookstown-based solid fuel importer and distributor LCC grew more than 37 per cent to more than one million tonnes during 2018.


LCC imports industrial coal into the North and then processes it at its Belfast plant before exporting it worldwide for use in the steel and alloy sectors.

Animal feeds

The animal grains and feeds sector also delivered a strong performance for the port during 2018 with tonnages also rising to a record 2.35 million.

Joe O’Neill, chief executive of Belfast Harbour, said the latest trading figures highlight that 2018 was “a strong year of growth, with virtually every trade sector reporting an increase in traffic and with many reaching record levels”.

The harbour also continued last year to be an important gateway into Northern Ireland, welcoming 1.5 million ferry passengers and 185,000 cruise ship visitors.

A record 115 cruise ships docked at the port in 2018, but the harbour said it was expecting this year to be its busiest cruise season to date, with about 285,000 cruise visitors on board 151 cruise ships expected to arrive in Belfast.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business