Annual figures reflect return to more normal trading conditions after pandemic disruption
Belfast Harbour today reported that a return to more normal trading conditions in 2021 helped it record an increase in both turnover and profits compared with the year before, which was negatively impacted by challenges relating to the Covid 19 pandemic.
Releasing its annual results, Belfast Harbour said that in 2021 its turnover increased by 17% to £73.3m on the prior year, while operating profits were up 14% to £33.9m.
As a Trust Port, Belfast Harbour strategically reinvests its profits to maintain, operate and develop its port and estate, and during 2021, £36.4m was invested in port facilities and estate projects. This included major upgrades to Belfast Harbour’s VT1 and VT2 ferry terminals, operated by Stena Line.
The results were released as Belfast Harbour marks the 175th anniversary of the formation of Belfast Harbour Commissioners, which began the transformation of Port of Belfast into the leading regional port and economic hub it is today.
Belfast Harbour said the improvement in financial performance during 2021 largely reflected a resumption of more stable trading conditions after freight, container and passenger levels in 2020 had been disrupted by lockdowns, restrictions and supply chain issues related to the global pandemic.
Trade reached record levels during the year, with 25.6 million tonnes of cargo passing through the port, a 9% increase on the 23.5 million tonnes a year earlier and 5% above the previous record levels recorded in 2019.
The Port’s trade levels and financial performance in 2021 also benefitted from an increase in global trade, the restart of domestic travel and cruise tourism – with 72 ships calling in Belfast compared with just one a year earlier – and investment in new infrastructure projects.
Alongside its ongoing programme of port investments, the year also saw the ‘topping out’ of landmark Grade A, BREEAM Excellent office projects, City Quays 3 and Olympic House. Belfast Harbour also announced plans for a new urban garden for the city to be known as City Quays Gardens and welcomed the first production from Netflix to Belfast Harbour Studios, which has planning permission in place for an ambitious expansion.
As a socially responsible port, growing sustainably is key to Belfast Harbour’s strategic delivery as it develops as a world leading regional port and key economic hub. Sustainability milestones in 2021 included Belfast Harbour committing to deliver ambitious environmental targets to reduce CO2 emissions and waste and to improve air and water quality, as part of a Prosperity Agreement with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Engaging closely with local communities, Belfast Harbour also invested close to £250,000 in strategic community partnerships, grass-roots organisations and charities across the region, including the launch during 2021 of the Belfast Harbour Community Awards.
Dr Theresa Donaldson, Chair of Belfast Harbour, said:
“2021 was a record year for Belfast Harbour, with a strong trading performance across our diverse portfolio, with both port trade and wider estate activity out-performing the previous year.
“Throughout the challenges of the pandemic, trade has continued to flow, and these results demonstrate the continued resilience of Belfast Harbour and its customers and tenants, as together we adapt and respond to external challenges and operating changes.
“This strong performance provides a firm economic base and positive outlook for 2022, but we remain mindful of the continuing risks posed by the pandemic and of the global energy and supply chain challenges and related inflationary environment.”
Belfast Harbour’s CEO Joe O’Neill said:
“2021 saw significant progress in delivering our Port for Everyone’ vision, as we continued to develop Belfast Harbour as a world-leading regional port, and a key economic hub and iconic waterfront for the city.
“Since 2019 and throughout the pandemic, we have been active in delivery of a progressive, £254million, 5-year investment programme. We continue to reinvest our profits into port future-proofing projects, and world class developments and public spaces, helping to create a gateway to opportunity for current and future generations.
“As 2022 marks the 175th anniversary year of Belfast Harbour Commissioners, we will continue to deliver transformative projects that support economic growth and innovation and deliver positive social value to the region.”