For the second year running the Port of Belfast trade tonnages handled during 2019 have remained strong at more than 24M tonnes.
Positive growth was recorded in several sectors including Roll-on / Roll-Off (Ro-Ro) freight vehicles and exports of aggregates, while last year’s more favourable weather conditions led to lower imports of grain, animal feeds and fuels.
Ro-Ro units rose by 4% to a record 542,000, reflecting the continued popularity of Stena Line’s freight traffic routes to Scotland and England. Exports of stone by Co Down based Conexpo for GB and European infrastructure projects exceeded 1M Tonnes for the first time. Tonnages in the wider aggregates sector grew by 4% to a record 1.6M Tonnes.
Northern Ireland’s tourism sector also benefitted from record numbers of cruise and ferry passenger numbers, up by 6% to over 1.6M, the highest figure recorded in 16 years. The number of tourist coaches carried also increased by 10% to a record 10,000.
Joe O’Neill, Belfast Harbour’s CEO, said: “Although there has been prolonged uncertainty about Brexit’s implications for Northern Ireland, port-related trading activity within the local economy has been steady with tonnage levels staying above 24M Tonnes for the second consecutive year. This reflects Belfast Harbour’s highly diversified and resilient business model which enables us to operate across every major cargo sector.
The 2019 figures also revealed that container traffic increased by 2%, surpassing the 130,000 units handled threshold for the first time since 2008.
Port Director, Michael Robinson added: “Over the longer-term, the mix of trades handled by the port will continue to evolve as consumer spending habits change and the drive to decarbonise the economy accelerates. “While this will lead to a decline in fossil fuel imports which have been a staple of the port industry for the last century, it also presents opportunities to further develop trades related to the green economy and sectors such as offshore wind where Belfast Harbour has a proven track record.
Belfast Harbour is Northern Ireland’s leading gateway and key economic hub for trade and tourism, handling more than 70% of the region’s seaborne imports and exports. The 2,000-acre Harbour Estate hosts more than five million annual visits, including 1.6 million ferry and cruise ship passengers. It is also home to a vibrant mix of 760 businesses working across multiple sectors, including marine logistics and heavy engineering, commercial and residential real estate, retail, financial and IT services, tourism and leisure, media and creative industries. The 85 berth Belfast Harbour Marina is located just upriver from the commercial port and is popular with visitors and long-term berth holders alike.
The ongoing £250million 5-year investment programme in port infrastructure and real estate projects will help deliver Belfast Harbour’s vision to be the world’s best regional port, upholding the highest environmental standards and adopting innovative smart technology and digital infrastructure.