Trade through Belfast Harbour in 2017 increased to a record 23.7m tonnes, up by 600,000 tonnes (circa 3%) on the previous year.
Belfast Harbour, which handles more than 70% of Northern Ireland’s seaborne trade, said that despite the low level of growth in the local economy, significant and strategic investments by the Port and its customers were having a positive impact, as was the relative weakness in sterling on exports.
Freight traffic on StenaLine’s Ro-Ro services continues to grow, reaching a record 514,000 vehicles (up 2%) with external demand for Northern Ireland’s agri-food produce a key driver for the increase.
Linked to this, demand for animal feeds and grains rose by 11% to 2.2m tonnes, assisted by improved farm incomes arising from higher milk prices as well as last year’s poor weather conditions. Container traffic also rose by 1.6% to over 125,000 units.
Aggregate exports from Belfast Harbour surpassed 1.5m tonnes for the first time, up 16% year-on-year and up 60% in the past five years, highlighting the importance of the local quarrying sector to the Northern Ireland export economy and the success of Conexpo which exports products to road building projects across Europe.
Imports of steel for the local heavy manufacturing and construction sectors rose by 14% to a record 211,000 tonnes. The development of a dedicated offshore wind terminal by the Harbour also continued to generate traffic. The terminal handled 305,000 tonnes of wind farm components last year, the highest since it opened in 2013.
More in the next print issue of Export & Freight