Last year, a record amount of trade was processed at the port of Belfast, and Brexit checks were cited as one factor.
According to the port of Belfast, 25.6 million tonnes were processed at the port in 2021, an increase of 9% over the previous year.
Trading volumes also increased by 5% at pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
While the pandemic bounce was one of the drivers of trade growth in 2021, the port’s annual report also emphasized that Belfast benefited from detouring traffic from the route from Britain to the Republic. Did.
Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol requires checking for goods entering the north from the United Kingdom, but the process is not as rigorous as the process that applies to shipments to Ireland in the United Kingdom.
The ongoing grace period that delayed the full implementation of the protocol is one of the main reasons for the difference in checks between Northern Ireland and the ports of the Republic.
Northern Ireland exporters are free to sell the rest of the UK market when shipping from Northern Ireland ports.
The port’s annual report states: “After the UK left the European Union, there was a change in RoRo (roll-on / roll-off) traffic on the route between Ireland and the UK, and trade improved at all NI ports, including Belfast. Volume while the period continues to apply. “
Belfast Harbor CEO Joe O’Neill said there is evidence that some of the trade is beginning to return to the Dublin route.
He said the flow of trade through the port of Belfast was “smooth” until 2021.
O’Neill said companies are seeking certainty, as the fate of the Protocol has not yet been resolved, including the grace period situation.
“Companies want certainty,” he said.
“And certainly, they can make the right plans and adjustments and handle them. The problem is uncertainty, which can hinder investment and make day-to-day operations a little more difficult to manage. “
O’Neill said trade flows remained strong in the first half of 2022, but there is evidence that rising inflationary pressures are beginning to “soften” activity, especially with the movement of commodities such as animal feeds. Stated. And fertilizer.
The report shows that after the pandemic, Belfast Port returned to more normal trading conditions and sales and profits increased record year-on-year.
In 2021, sales were up 17% year-on-year to £ 73.3 million, while operating profit was up 14% to £ 33.9 million.
Dr. Teresa Donaldson, Chair of Belfast Harbor, said:
“Trade continues to flow through pandemic challenges, and these results show the continued resilience of Belfast Harbor and its customers and tenants, adapting to external challenges and changes in operations. I am.
“This strong performance provides a solid economic foundation and positive outlook for 2022, but continues to bear in mind the ongoing risks posed by the pandemic and the inflationary environment associated with global energy and supply chain challenges. I have it. “