#BELFAST HARBOUR -The largest port in the north reported improved turnover and profit during 2010-2011, according to the annual report of Belfast Harbour.
The port showed a 2% rise in profit before taxation to £17.8m and a 4% increase in turnover to £36.1m. Underpinning the harbour's performance were record levels of tonnages handled during the period - up 7% to 17.6m tonnes. Although some sectors, such as those related to construction, continued to struggle, this was offset by growth elsewhere.
The number of freight vehicles passing through the port rose by 14% to 357,000 and a record four million tonnes were handled in the dry-bulk sector, which includes trades such as aggregates and coal.
Belfast Harbour noted that capital expenditure projects valued at £18.3m were completed during 2010-11. A further £53.8m was committed to additional projects at the year end, principally the development of the UK's first dedicated offshore wind logistics terminal for DONG Energy.
Len O'Hagan, Belfast Harbour's Chairman, said: "In spite of ongoing sluggishness in both the UK and Irish economies, Belfast Harbour has posted a very strong set of results for 2011, reflecting the diverse nature of the business and a long-term strategy of major capital investment to ensure that Belfast offers the most modern maritime facilities on the island.
"Significant uncertainty, however, still exists in the global economy, with the UK officially falling back into recession and the continuing eurozone crisis which is undermining business confidence throughout the continent and beyond.
"There are still opportunities for growth, though, particularly in renewable energy where Belfast Harbour is investing £50m in a new terminal for the assembly of offshore wind turbines. There have also been opportunities to further develop Belfast Harbour Estate, not least the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction, which received a £13.6m donation from Belfast Harbour, and the Northern Ireland Science Park which was the subject of a £6m investment by the Harbour to facilitate a 55,000 sq ft expansion."
During the year the port benefitted from several developments within the Irish Sea ferry sector, including the opening of Stena Line's new Scottish terminal at Loch Ryan Port (Cairnryan) and introduction of a pair of larger and more modern vessels. During this timeframe Stena Line had completed its takeover of DFDS Seaways Belfast - Birkenhead route and freight-only service to Heysham.
Mr O'Hagan added: "Although the overall performance of Belfast Harbour has been strong, it is clear that economic recovery across the UK and Ireland remains patchy. Belfast Harbour, however, is committed to its long-term strategy of investing in infrastructure to maintain the Port's competitiveness and provide much needed capital projects for the construction industry."