Trade at Belfast docks continues to drive growth in the hardbout estate as figures for 2016 show a 12% rise in profits to £32.2 million.
The annual report today reveals a record financial performance as revenues from the port’s varied activities grew by 7% to £58.1m .
Trade through the port was up by just over 1% to more than 23m tonnes.
The freight ferry sector, operated by StenaLine, performed particularly well with over half a million vehicles passing through Belfast, a rise of 60% since 2010.
It was also a record year for the cruise sector with 82 ships calling with 145,000 visitors.
“This has been another highly successful year for Belfast Harbour reflecting an improving economic background and the benefits coming from our ongoing investment in port facilities and development of the Harbour estate - investments which have totalled £130m over the past five years,” said chairman David Dobbin.
“Every penny of our net profit is reinvested in the development of the Harbour’s port and property activities, supporting businesses throughout Northern Ireland.
“As is the case in the Port sector the scale of these benefits to the wider economy is considerably in excess of the direct economic benefit to Belfast Harbour itself.”
During 2016 Belfast Harbour invested £3m in 90,000 sq ft of additional warehousing and £4m in new cranes, including the largest single crane operating in any British or Irish port. Significant investments were made in regeneration projects in the Harbour Estate. These included City Quays 2, a 124,000 sq ft Grade A office which will accommodate 1,000 workers, an 188-bedroom Marriott Hotel and the 66,000 sq ft Belfast Harbour Studios.
It is those investments, said Dr Dobbin, that were playing an increasingly important role in development and future wealth generation.
“Belfast Harbour has an ambitious investment pipeline which will continue to drive our business and enhance the capacity of Northern Ireland’s economy, creating jobs and maintaining Belfast Harbour as the region’s most important access point to the global marketplace.
“The Harbour’s investment profile has historically been dominated by marine projects, but the opportunity to utilise waterfront sites no longer required for port operations has generated major property development projects.
“Planned in consultation with Invest NI, City Quays has created strong interest among inward investors. The first office, City Quays 1, is fully let, with City Quays 2, due for completion this summer already generating significant interest. The Board has also approved the development of City Quays 3, a 260,000 sq ft office which is expected to be completed by 2019.”
The harbour’s offshore wind terminal which was used by both MHI Vestas and DONG Energy to assemble some of the world’s largest wind turbines for installation in the Irish Sea. Belfast Harbour became the first location in the world for the mass-scale assembly of these 187m high turbines.