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Displaying items by tag: Belfast Harbour

The 1,000th cruise ship call to Belfast Harbour took place yesterday according to Cruise Belfast, which works in partnership between the port and Visit Belfast.

Cunard Line's MS Queen Elizabeth arrived in Belfast marking a significant milestone for tourism in Northern Ireland, as well as the region’s gradual economic recovery from the pandemic.

Cruise tourism to the city restarted in June this year, with domestic, UK-only cruise itineraries and, to date, the arrival of MS Queen Elizabeth is the 66th cruise call to Belfast this year. The 'Vista' class ship is Cunard's newest luxury ocean liner, which first visited Belfast in 2016 and this will be on a  sixth call to Belfast Harbour.

The celebrated arrival of the ‘Berlin’, the first cruise ship to arrive into Belfast in 1996, marked the start of what has been a huge success story for tourism in Northern Ireland, with cruise calls growing year on year, welcoming an incredible 1.7m visitors in the 25 year period.

2019 was a record year for cruise calls, with 146 vessels bringing 285,000 visitors to Northern Ireland, before cruise operations temporarily ceased due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Belfast was named by Cruise Critic as the ‘Best Port of Call’ in the UK and Ireland in 2019 for cruise ships following an investment by the Port to create new quayside facilities and funding from Tourism Northern Ireland for a dedicated cruise Visitor Information Point.

Managed and staffed by Visit Belfast, the terminal uses the latest digital and audio-visual technology to help travel advisors showcase the range of visitor attractions on offer across Belfast and Northern Ireland.

Published in Cruise Liners

Following an easing back to full cruise operations at the UK's main cruise port of Southampton which had its busiest month of the year to date with two consecutive five-cruise ship weekends during August.

On Saturday 7 August and Saturday 14 August, each one of the port’s world-class cruise terminals was occupied as the cruise industry makes its phased return. This is welcome news for holidaymakers as well as for the thousands of local residents who rely on the cruise industry for their livelihood.

During the first five ships day, Ocean Cruise Terminal hosted P&O Cruises’ Iona. The new cruiseship later departed the ship's home port (see May's naming ceremony) for a maiden passenger cruise.

Marella Explorer departed from Queen Elizabeth II Terminal in the Eastern Docks, MSC Cruises’ MSC Virtuosa (Belfast's first bigship caller), fitted with Shore Power connectivity, was at the port’s newest terminal, Horizon Cruise Terminal.

Anthem of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s second largest ship in its Quantum-class, was at City Cruise Terminal, and Regasothl Princess, Princess Cruises’ Royal-class ship, departed from the Western Docks Mayflower Terminal (adjacent to the Southampton International Boat Show, see story).

On the second weekend, Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Silhouette was at City Cruise Terminal in place of Anthem of the Seas, with all other ships above returning to their respective terminals for further passenger operations. (These ships Afloat adds also visited Belfast Harbour this season).

Rebekah Keeler, Head of Cruise at ABP, said: “We’re excited to be getting closer to seeing what a ‘normal’ cruise weekend for the port in peak season would be. It’s taken a huge collaborative effort by the industry to bring cruise back safely and it fills us all with pride to see passengers once again beginning their holidays here at the Port of Southampton.”

Before the industry pause, the Port of Southampton would typically welcome two million passengers every year, with each cruise call bringing in over £2.7million into the local economy. The coming months are expected to be busy, with all terminals occupied at weekends and lots of activity on weekdays too.

With the new next-generation-ready Horizon Cruise Terminal now welcoming passengers, and its shore power due for commissioning this year, the strengthening of cruise infrastructure places the Port of Southampton firmly at the forefront of the future of cruise.

Published in Cruise Liners

Major cruises from British ports will resume this week with a maiden voyage of a vessel around the coast of the UK.

MSC Cruises second ship of the Meraviglia-Plus class, Afloat adds is MSC Virtuosa, which according to the Belfast Telegraph, will leave Southampton (see ship's earlier entry cruise) on Thursday for a four-night cruise. This is to be followed by three and four-night mini-cruises.

From June 12, the 19-deck ship will start to operate longer seven-night sailings through to mid-September. This will offer guests additional embarkation ports in Liverpool and Greenock as well as calls at Portland in Dorset and Belfast (from where Afloat adds arrived this morning from Liverpool).

For comments on the visit by MSC Cruises UK & Ireland's managing director, click the newspaper's link here. 

Today's call of the MSC Virtuosa to Belfast Harbour, Afloat adds, follows the first and only cruisecaller last year to Northern Ireland before Covid-19 struck.

On that occasion, Hurtigruten's newbuild hybrid-powered expedition cruiseship MS Fridtjof Nansen made a maiden debut to the city.

Published in Cruise Liners

Belfast Harbour has pledged support to Lagan Search & Rescue to the tune of £100,000 (€110,000) over the next five years, as the News Letter reports.

The arrangement includes continued provision of an operations base and lifeboat berths for the agency’s search and rescue services to the River Lagan and Belfast Lough.

A recent boost to the volunteer-run service was the addition of a new eight-metre lifeboat, funded in part by Belfast Harbour and the Northern Ireland Department for Transport’s Inshore/Inland Rescue Boat Grant Fund.

The News Letter has more on the story HERE.

Published in Belfast Lough

A sound financial performance is how Belfast Harbour has reported figures for 2019 and this in line with expectations of providing a strong platform from which to respond to challenges posed by the impact of Covid-19 on the local and global economy.

Releasing its annual results last month, Belfast Harbour reported turnover of £65.9m in the year to the end of 2019 (down 4%) and generated operating profits of £30.6m (down 15% from the record results of 2018). The decline in earnings largely reflected the completion of a major offshore windfarm contract mid-2018 and the ongoing decline in power station coal throughput.

Trade remained strong during the year, with more than 24 million tonnes of cargo passing through the port. Ferry passenger numbers exceeded 1.5m for the third year in a row, there were a record number of freight vehicles - up 4% to 542,000 – and cruise ship activity also continued to grow, with 280,000 cruise visitors during the year.

During 2019, £44m was invested in a range of port and estate projects, with £40m invested to automate container handling and upgrade the Belfast -Liverpool ferry terminal, in readiness for the introduction of larger new Stena Line vessels.  Construction also commenced on City Quays 3, which will be Northern Ireland’s largest ever Grade ‘A’ office building.  The last remaining office space in the City Quays 2 building was occupied during the year.

In 2019 Belfast Harbour committed £115.7m in further investment in strategically significant projects to help deliver its vision of becoming the best regional port and an iconic waterfront for Belfast. These investments will be a critical enabler of NI’s Covid-19 recovery, given the Port’s recognised role as a key driver of the regional economy.

In the past 10 years Belfast Harbour has invested over £290m in port infrastructure and estate regeneration, which as a Trust Port it entirely self-funded - with all profits reinvested back into developing the Port for the benefit of customers and the wider economy. 

Published in Belfast Lough

Cruise fall-out as Belfast Harbour is anticipating that Covid-19 could hit revenues by as much as 20% this year, largely due to the collapse of its cruise, tourist and leisure business.

Port bosses said they do not expect any of the scheduled cruises to arrive in Belfast this year, with plans for a new cruise terminal now on hold.

Just one ship docked (as Afloat reported) in the city in 2020 prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 130 were originally booked, expected to bring around 230,000 tourists to Belfast.

Chief executive Joe O’Neill said it could be 2022-23 before the cruise business recovers.

Belfast Harbour confirmed that its revenues and profits were already down in 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More from The Irish News here.

Published in Belfast Lough

A new TV series beginning tomorrow night (Tuesday 14 April) on BBC One Northern Ireland puts Belfast Harbour in the starring role.

Today’s Belfast Telegraph features the three-part documentary, Belfast Harbour: Cruises, Cranes and Cargo, which was filmed in the busy port last autumn.

And it captures the highs and lows of a time that saw both the arrival of the city’s biggest ever cruise liner visitor, and a closure threat to the iconic Harland & Wolff shipyard.

Future episodes will explore the work of the harbour’s control room managers and shipping agents who oversee the movement of a dizzying array of goods in and out of the port.

That’s not to mention the skilled harbour pilots and crane operators who help to ensure its safe workings day in and day out.

The first episode of Belfast Harbour: Cruises, Cranes and Cargo screens Tuesday 14 April at 10.45pm on BBC One NI. The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in Maritime TV
Tagged under

Ferry operator Stena is reducing its Belfast Harbour services as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm, which normally operates seven ships on 138 sailings a week from Belfast, has temporarily berthed one ship (Afloat tracked to ro-ro freighter Stena Forecaster) and cut sailings to 108 a week.

Earlier this week, the firm said it would furlough staff and make redundancies across its UK and Ireland operations.

Stena sails from Belfast to Heysham, Liverpool and Cairnryan.

It is understood freight volumes have fallen since the crisis began but that non-freight traffic has collapsed.

More on this BBC News story here including what is happening to the ferry sector serving the Republic when yesterday Afloat reported the Irish government approved an “emergency provision” of a maximum of up to €15m (£13.2m).

This is the cost of maintaining five passenger ferry services in response to Covid-19.

Published in Ferry

A cruise liner bound for Belfast in May has had its itinerary changed to avoid two upcoming port calls in Italy, following that country’s extraordinary national lockdown measures to control the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the MSC Splendida was due to dock at Civitavecchia on Saturday 28 March and the following day at Genoa.

However, with quarantine extended to the whole of Italy by its government this past Monday (9 March), MSC Cruises has rerouted the ship to instead dock in Marseille in 28 March and Barcelona on 29 March.

The MSC Splendida is expected to arrive in Belfast Lough on Friday 1 May via Hamburg.

The Belfast Telegraph also reports that a major cruise operator hit hard by Covid-19 outbreaks, and which was due to bring 5,000 people to Belfast on Friday 8 May, has suspended operations for the next eight weeks.

Princess Cruises, whose Diamond Princess in Japan and Grand Princess in California were subjected to quarantine, also operates the Regal Princess — which is at present approaching Cozumel in Mexico to end its current voyage.

Belfast Harbour has submitted a planning application for the development of six new purpose-built film and television studios at its existing Giant’s Park site.

The harbour company says the plans represent an investment of £45m and will generate 250 construction jobs and around 1,000 creative industry jobs.

The proposed development would quadruple the size of the Belfast Harbour Studios complex and make Belfast a leading centre in the industry, the company says.

Phase one of the Belfast Harbour Studios development opened three years ago at Giant’s Park on Belfast Lough with two 32,000 sq ft studios and 125,000 sq ft of overall production space.

These have been used for a number of major productions including SyFy’s Krypton TV series and are currently occupied by a major film production company.

Belfast Harbour now intends to develop four additional 21,000 sq ft studios and two 16,000 sq ft studios, as well as up to 100,000 sq ft of production offices and 130,000 sq ft of support workshops on an adjoining 20-acre site.

In total, the project represents more than 346,000 sq ft of additional production facilities which, when combined with phase one, will create the largest studio complex outside of the South East of England.

Located on Belfast’s Giant’s Park on the North Foreshore, the expanded facility will also provide flexible backlot areas and dedicated support space for specialised creative suppliers to the industry, and aligns with Belfast Harbour’s ambitions to create a leading European media hub.

Joe O’Neill, Belfast Harbour’s CEO, said: “In recent years Belfast has established itself as one of the UK’s top media production hubs. In 2017 we invested £20m to provide brand-new studio facilities but with record levels of demand for studio space globally, we are confident the time is right to progress with phase two of the development.

“The location is highly accessible, is serviced by ultra-high-speed internet connections and benefits from a skilled local workforce that has proven its ability to help deliver some of the world’s best film and television content.

“This new studio complex will build on Northern Ireland’s already impressive international reputation and generate around 1,000 creative industry jobs across a wide variety of disciplines.”

Upon receipt of planning, Belfast Harbour would start construction on phase two later this year with completion of the new studios scheduled for 2021.

Richard Williams, CEO of Northern Ireland Screen, said the expansion would provide a significant further boost for the local industry at a time when studio space is at a premium across the UK.

“With Disney and Apple joining Netflix and Amazon in investing in the launch of their own on-demand streaming services, there is no end in sight to the demand for high-end, high-cost content. That has led to unprecedented demand for studio space globally, so Belfast Harbour’s announcement comes at a perfect time for our local industry,” he said.

“Belfast Harbour’s support for the screen industries in Northern Ireland is exemplary, and their vision for phase two of Belfast Harbour Studios is inspired. It is a development that will help Northern Ireland to become the largest screen sector in the UK and Ireland outside of the southeast of England.”

Spending on film and high-end television in the UK from major international productions topped £3.04bn in 2019, according to figures released by British Film Institute’s research and statistics unit.

Published in Belfast Lough
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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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