Belfast Harbour has reported robust financial results for 2022, with annual turnover and profits in line with expectations, despite a challenging global trading environment.
In what was a milestone year, marking the 175th anniversary of the formation of Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Belfast Harbour reported turnover of £77.2m for 2022, up 5% on its figures for 2021, and underlying pre-tax profits of £34.3m, up 1% on the previous year.
As a Trust Port, Belfast Harbour strategically reinvests its profits to develop and maintain the Port and wider Harbour Estate, including investing in major infrastructure projects. The figures reported have supported the continued delivery of an ambitious five year, £254m investment programme, which has enabled Belfast Harbour to add significant economic and social value to the region.
Continuing Belfast Harbour’s long history of delivering transformative projects, 2022 saw £23.4m invested in port facilities and infrastructure projects. This included the completion of the Victoria Terminal 2 passenger facility.
Belfast Harbour noted its resilient and diverse trading portfolio as a core asset in delivering its strong financial performance, as well as the recognising the important contribution of its key customers and estate partners.
Despite the climate of global uncertainty and external challenges sparked by the war in Ukraine, port trade dropped only slightly on the record levels recorded in 2021. Total tonnage through Belfast Harbour was reported at 24.5m tonnes, representing the second highest levels in its history, and a slight easing back of 4.3% from the record levels of 2021.
Roll-On Roll-Off freight on Stena Line performed strongly, recording 600,000 freight units during the year, and matching the record performance delivered in 2021.
The volume of ferry passengers travelling through the Port increased by 22% year on year to almost 1.8 million people, with routes benefitting from the full easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions. The number of passenger cars reached a record high of 462,000, increasing by 12% from the year before, reflecting a continued interest in staycations and local holidays.
Cruise ships continued to provide a welcome boost to the local economy, with Belfast Harbour welcoming a record 141 cruise ship calls during 2022, as cruise travel fully resumed, and the industry made a strong recovery following a reduced schedule the previous year.
2022 also saw major investment in the Harbour Estate, which included the completion of two landmark office buildings, ‘City Quays 3’ and ‘Olympic House,’ as well as the construction of Hamilton Road, a new Titanic Quarter link road between Queen’s Road and Sydenham Road.
With ambitions to create the largest European media hub outside of London, work commenced on the expansion of Belfast Harbour Studios and productions from Netflix and Amazon Prime, including ‘The School for Good and Evil’, directed by Paul Feig were secured.
Providing a welcome boost to the thriving screen industry in Northern Ireland, Belfast Harbour also announced a partnership with Ulster University and NI Screen to deliver Studio Ulster, a Belfast Region City Deal project that will create a leading-edge virtual production facility adjacent the existing Belfast Harbour Studios site at Giant’s Park.
Engaging closely with local communities, the Harbour provided funding of £320,000 to community and charitable programmes during 2022. This included the expansion of the Belfast Harbour Community Awards Fund, which supported 25 grass-roots community organisations with funding totalling £87,000.
Dr Theresa Donaldson, Chair of Belfast Harbour, said: “2022 was a landmark year for Belfast Harbour as we celebrated the 175th anniversary of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners. The strong results achieved during the year demonstrate the resilience and effectiveness of our Trust Port model, which enables us to reinvest our profits back into the development of our Port and Estate.
“Leveraging the diversity of our portfolio and our invaluable partnerships with our tenants, stakeholders and customers, Belfast Harbour is well on track to deliver its strategic ambitions to sustainably grow as a socially responsible port and as a key economic hub that delivers tangible social impact to the city and beyond.”
Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive Officer of Belfast Harbour, said: “Our robust financial performance during 2022 reflects our strategic progress in growing as a world leading regional port and developing an iconic waterfront for the city. While we are confident of our diverse business and revenue streams, 2023 will undoubtedly present challenges as uncertainty in the global economy continues.
“As we actively develop the next phase of our Port for Everyone strategy, Belfast Harbour takes a long-term strategic view, forward-investing in our Port and Estate for benefit of our stakeholders and the wider region. Through transformative investment programmes and innovative development, our tried and tested Trust Port model is delivering clear economic value and establishing Belfast Harbour as a key gateway to opportunity for the region.”