Northern Ireland

Belfast Harbour achieves "record trade" in 2012

Belfast Harbour
Image caption Around 432,000 freight vehicles passed through the port of Belfast last year - a rise of 21% since 2011.

Trade handled by Belfast Harbour rose to a record level in 2012, increasing by 11% on the previous year.

New figures released by the harbour showed the port handled 19.6m tonnes of goods over the 12 month period.

The growth was "driven primarily by an improved performance in the bulk and roll-on/roll-off freight vehicle sectors", the harbour authorities said.

Around 432,000 freight vehicles passed through the port of Belfast last year - a rise of 21% since 2011.

That figure was reached by a "record performance on the Belfast - Heysham route", the harbour authorities added.

Its chief executive, Roy Adair, said: "It's greatly encouraging for Belfast Harbour to once again be able to report such a positive set of trade figures."

"Growth across a number of sectors reaffirms Belfast's position as one of the most efficient ports in these islands and helps benchmark the harbour's ongoing contribution to the Northern Ireland economy," Mr Adair added.

'Major investments'

The annual trade figures included 2m tonnes of grain and animal feeds, the highest amount ever recorded by the harbour.

Dry bulk trade at the port rose by 16% over the year, to reach 4.6m tonnes.

Its coal imports also increased by 600,000 tonnes, exceeding 1m tonnes for the first time since 1996.

In a statement, the harbour authorities said the rise in coal tonnage reflected "recent investments by the harbour in deep-water facilities which have enabled it to handle coal imports for AES's power station at Kilroot".

It added that the competitiveness of the Belfast - Cairnryan route has been "significantly enhanced" by new superfast ferries and new terminals on both sides of the Irish Sea, which were a result of "major investments by Belfast Harbour and Stena Line.

Mr Adair added: "Long-term investments by the harbour and by key port users such as Stena Line have delivered significant benefits to the regional economy. It is particularly pleasing that the roll-on/roll-off traffic has performed so strongly in what is one of the most competitive sectors in the port industry."