Belfast Harbour has revealed a record financial performance for 2016. Turnover grew by 7% to £58.1m while operating profit increased by 12% to £32.2m according to its 2016 Annual Report published today.
The growth was driven by improved port throughput - up by just over 1% to more than 23m tonnes in 2016 - and increased property income. 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. Passenger numbers also grew strongly in 2016, up 9% to 1.5m, the highest level since 2004.
The Harbour invested £42m (up from £18m in the previous year) in infrastructure including new logistics warehousing, quayside cranes, the new Harbour Studios and ongoing urban regeneration schemes such as City Quays. A further £105m has been committed to future capital expenditure projects.
Dr David Dobbin, Belfast Harbour’s Chair, said:
“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.
“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.
Dr Dobbin added:
“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 Annual Report noted a busy year for 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.
Almost 2.3m tonnes of agri-sector related trades were also handled through Belfast, performing better than expected as the impact of lower global milk prices did not fully materialise. Cement exports exceeded 200,000 tonnes for the first time since 2007 and coal grew to 2.2m tonnes representing 20% of all UK coal imports. 2016 was also a record year for the cruise sector with 82 ships calling with 145,000 visitors.