The Port of Belfast Harbor Commissioners (known as the Board) was established in 1847 by the Belfast Harbour Act as a “Trust Port.” The corporate body will continue until dissolved by statute with responsibility for operating, improving, and maintaining the Port of Belfast. Port of Belfast management is independent of government.
Receiving more than six thousand vessels each year, the Port of Belfast is Ireland’s main dry bulk port, and it handles over 95% of the petroleum and oil products carried through Northern Ireland ports. Principal dry bulk imports include coal, grain, fertilizers, animal feeds, and cement. Exports are dominated by aggregates and scrap. With 1.2 million passengers each year, it is Ireland’s busiest ferry port.
In 2006, the Port of Belfast handled more traffic than ever, 17.5 million tons, representing an increase in containerized traffic and in bulk cargoes like steel and cement. Significant increases in paper products and animal feeds and grain also occurred in 2006. Roll-on/roll-off freight traffic was the biggest cargo category, with 4.6 million tons rolling through the Port in 2006.
In 2006, 1.2 million passengers and 313 thousand passenger vehicles were ferried to and from the Port of Belfast. The seven million tons of bulk cargoes included 3.5 million tons of dry bulk, 2.9 million tons of liquid bulk, and 621 thousand tons of break bulk. Leading commodities were petroleum products (2.7 million tons) and grain and feeds (1.6 million tons). In total, 6.2 thousand vessels carried 72.7 million gross tons through the Port of Belfast in 2006.
The Port of Belfast moves 600 thousand tons of break bulk cargoes each year. Those cargoes are dominated by timber imports from Baltic and Nordic ports. Facilities serving break bulk cargoes include the York Dock Steel Store of 3.6 thousand square meters, the Pollock Dock Paper Store of 11.6 thousand square meters of covered storage, and the Gotto Wharf/Pollock Dock Timber Storage with 13.7 thousand square meters of covered storage.
The about three million tons of liquid bulk cargoes per year are dominated by liquefied petroleum gas, molasses, bitumen, chemicals, and vegetable oils. The petroleum facilities serve such giants as BP, Texaco, ESSO, Conoco, Shell, and Emo Oil.
The Port of Belfast has a growing reputation as a port of call for cruise vessels, and it welcomes some of the world’s best cruise lines. Two berths serve passenger cruises: Stormont Wharf is 457 meters long with alongside depth of 10.2 meters, and Pollock 6 is 177 meters long with alongside depth of 8.5 meters.