Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group recorded higher revenues and operating profits last year, as both passenger numbers and freight volumes increased.
The ferry group, which also owns container shipping line Eucon as well as container terminals in Dublin and Belfast, has also highlighted a positive start to their freight business in 2014, despite the impact of “unprecedented” weather conditions.
Some 16 per cent of budgeted sailings have been cancelled since the start of the year, resulting “in some loss of discretionary passenger business and a disruption to freight business”, the group said.
However, additional capacity from its new ferry, the Epsilon , helped counter the effect of the lost sailings, it added.
Passenger numbers have slipped 4 per cent so far in 2014, but roll-on-roll-off freight volumes have surged 18 per cent.
Although bookings from tourists have been "good" to date, the group said it was "too early to call summer".
Revenue growth of 7 per cent in the container and terminal division as well as more modest growth of 1.1 per cent from its ferry business helped overall revenues at the group swell 3.4 per cent to almost €265 million last year.
Operating profit climbed 13.2 per cent to €30 million, the full-year earnings data published yesterday show.
Pretax profit rose 12.8 per cent to €23.7 million, while earnings before interest, tax and write-offs increased 7.4 per cent to €49.2 million.
Operating costs nudged up 2.5 per cent to €215.5 million, despite a fall in the cost of fuel.
The group’s net debt also declined almost 20 per cent in 2013, ending the year at €93.4 million. Adjusted earnings per share were 137.8 cent, up 32 per cent.
The Iseq-listed group, in which chief executive Eamonn Rothwell has a 16.2 per cent stake, maintained its total dividend for the year at 100 cent per unit of its shares.
About 1.56 million passengers travelled with ICG last year, a 1.6 per cent increase year on year, as the business benefited from the beginnings of a recovery in the number of British tourists travelling to Ireland.
However, car numbers fell 0.8 per cent to almost 351,000.
Roll-on-roll-off freight volumes rose almost 12 per cent and lift-on-lift-off freight was up by more than 10 per cent.
The charter of the 70-cabin Epsilon , which mostly services the Dublin-Holyhead route, was prompted by the improved economic outlook, according to ICG.
The extra vessel means Irish Ferries will undertake an expected 5,000 sailings to the UK in 2014, up from 4,122 last year. It will also make a total of 380 journeys to France, up from 259 sailings in 2013.