Northern Ireland’s main port enjoyed a record year in 2021 as the U.K.’s departure from the European Union created more trade through the territory and pandemic pressures eased.
Belfast Harbour handled 25.6 million tons last year, an increase of 9% from pandemic-hit 2020, it said in a statement on Tuesday. Container traffic rose 15% to the highest level since 2008, while the number of ferry passengers jumped 69% as authorities loosened travel restrictions.
Brexit has been a boon, with all Northern Ireland ports “experiencing improved trade volumes whilst grace periods continue to apply,” Port Director Michael Robinson said, referring to the transition period in the deal between the EU and the U.K.
Northern Ireland was effectively kept in the EU’s single market following Brexit. Under an agreement designed to avoid creating a hard border on the island of Ireland, goods moving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. will be subject to customs checks. But they haven’t all come into force yet, and grace periods have been extended.