#StrongGrowth - Against the backdrop of 500,000 visitors to Belfast's Tall Ships Festival in the port area, Belfast Harbour has reported record profits and turnover, and committed to invest £120 million in new infrastructure projects over the next three years.
Figures detailed in the Harbour's 2014 annual report revealed that turnover increased 4% to £52.6 million whilst Profits before Tax climbed 8% to a record £29.4 million. The Harbour also paid a record £10 million in tax during the year.
The performance was supported by growth in the volume of trade through the Harbour, with particularly strong performances in the freight traffic sector, up 2.2% to 476,000 vehicles and bulk cargoes such as coal and animal feed which brought dry bulk trade to over seven million tonnes for the first time.
In the past five years the Harbour has invested £100 million in new projects to enhance its infrastructure and services to Port customers and to maintain competitiveness with other ports across the island of Ireland. Projects in the pipeline include an upgrade of the Harbour's Roll-On/Roll-Off facilities, enhanced container handling capability and Cruise ship facilities.
Commenting on the results David Dobbin, Belfast Harbour's Chairman, said: "Belfast Harbour has successfully come through the global recession by investing heavily to diversify its business activities and to improve the competitiveness of its operations.
"Although growth in trade has slowed over the past year, the total throughput through the Port at 23 million tonnes is now 47% above low point of the recession in 2009. There is, however, little room for complacency given the fragile nature of the recovery and the negative impact which a stronger sterling is having upon local exporters.
"The Harbour's strategy of long-term investment for long-term growth has served us well. This will continue through a pipeline of capital expenditure projects totaling £120 million. Projects include a bespoke cruise facility and addressing the continuing shortage of Grade A office accommodation in Belfast by further developing the City Quays scheme. Last week the Board approved a £20 million spend on the City Quays 2 building."
During 2014 the Harbour commenced work on City Quays 1, the first office building in its City Quays development. With that building now complete and legal firm Baker & McKenzie secured as the anchor tenant, work will begin soon on the next stage of the development, City Quays 2, providing a further 124,000 sq ft of office accommodation.
Upon final completion the £250 million, 20-acre City Quays scheme is expected to support 10,000 jobs and generate £11 million in rates income for local and central Government.
Dr. Dobbin added: "As an entirely self-funded business with no recourse to the public purse or private finance, there is a clear linkage between the Harbour's ability to invest and grow, and its financial performance.
"Every penny of the Harbour's earnings are retained within the business and reinvested to develop Port facilities and real estate, creating much needed jobs and driving regional development. This year's record financial performance gives the Harbour a strong basis from which to support future growth.
"Belfast Harbour is an integral part of the life and economy of Northern Ireland, as demonstrated by the 500,000 visitors anticipated at this weekend's Tall Ships Festival. The public has a keen interest in Belfast's maritime heritage and with £120 million earmarked for new projects the Harbour has demonstrated its commitment to the Harbour's future."
Other developments during 2014 included the enhancement of quay facilities at Pollock Dock to support increased waste and recycling related tonnages, and the award of planning approval to develop up to 200,000 sq ft of business space within Sydenham Business Park.