Feature, Freight News, Sea

We’ll be the best in the business, says Belfast Harbour

[ September 12, 2019   //   ]

Belfast Harbour pledged to become “the best regional port in the world” when it announced its Strategic Plan, published at its Annual Stakeholder Meeting on 12 September, together with an outlook to 2035.

Long-term proposals include schemes to deepen the port’s shipping channel to accommodate larger vessels and new deep-water quays, along with completion of the City Quays development and a science and technology hub.

As part of the plan the port has committed £254 million of investment to deliver new marine and estate infrastructure which, according to research by Ulster University’s Economic Policy Centre will generate 7,000 new jobs and support a further 3,500 construction jobs, generating £500 million for the Northern Ireland economy and an additional £300 million in wages and £4 million in rates to the city each year.

Speaking at the meeting, Belfast Harbour chairman, David Dobbin, said: “We want to become the world’s best regional port and create an iconic waterfront district for Belfast which will be an attractive place to live, work, visit and invest in. This will bring huge benefits for our customers, the regional economy and all our citizens. We can’t deliver our ambitious plans by ourselves which is why a partnership approach is a key part of our strategy. If Northern Ireland is going to be competitive on the global stage then we need to work together, collaborate more and invest in key infrastructure.

“Over the next five years Belfast Harbour intends to invest £254 million in new port and estate infrastructure and facilities.  This major investment programme is really only possible because of our Trust Port status which allows us to reinvest every penny of our net earnings back into the business.”

In the shorter term (2019-23) the port plans to invest £254 million upgrading its cranes and materials handling equipment, installing new ramps to accommodate larger vessels and new storage facilities. Work will also begin on digital ‘Smart Port’ initiatives to provide greater automation and a new unified system to coordinate cargo and shipping communications.

A number of real estate projects will also be completed, including City Quays 4, Pierpont Plaza, a five-storey office facility, film studios, a media hub and new public space.

Belfast harbour chief executive Joe O’Neill, said: “These plans are among the most ambitious to be put forward in the Port’s history, but the challenges and opportunities of the future demand a new approach. Over the coming months we are looking forward to launching joint initiatives that will support the development of new trade, tourism and tradeable services opportunities.

“Belfast City Council’s aim is to accommodate 66,000 new residents, create 46,000 additional jobs, and develop 550,000sq m of employment floor space by 2035. Belfast Harbour’s proposals will be pivotal in helping meet those targets.

“Our strategy, however, is not just about physical infrastructure; we want to use our resources and expertise to develop partnership initiatives that build Northern Ireland’s capacity for economic growth. These will include projects to target new port trades, skills programmes to support employers, a Global Innovation Institute to encourage R&D and an accelerator programme to stimulate innovative business.”

Belfast Harbour has also set out plans to be one of the world’s most sustainable ports with new technologies to improve air quality, reduce fuel consumption and reduce emissions. It will decarbonise its energy usage by providing shore-side power for vessels and creating a green micro-energy grid throughout Belfast Harbour Estate.