It has been reported that Northern Ireland is exporting twice the volume of freight than it was twenty years ago, with some ports transporting over triple the volume.
Figures collected by the Department for Transport recorded 27.1 million tonnes of traffic passing in and out of ports in Northern Ireland during 2017, 2.2% more than 2016. With imports accounting for 61% of the volume, exporting does not make up most of the traffic, but it is on a steady increase.
10.5m tonnes of traffic passed out of the main ports in 2017, just over 400,000 tonnes more than the year before which is almost double the 5.5m tonnes recorded in 1997.
Belfast remained by far the busiest port, handling 67% of traffic in 2017, ahead of Warrenpoint (12%), Larne (11%) and Londonderry (7%). Exports from Belfast more than doubled from 3.3m tonnes in 1998 to 7.1m last year but Warrenpoint has shown the largest improvement of them all with a rise from 491,000 tonnes exported in 1998 to 1.6m in 2017.
Port Chief Executive Clare Guinness has said the growth had been largely driven by the roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) wheeled cargo traffic via Seatruck Ferries.
Great investment is being put into the operations at Warrenpoint, with Seatruck announcing in July a £90m investment in two larger vessels for it's Warrenpoint Irish Sea crossing to Heysham. The four-deck ferries will facilitate an extra 30,000 trailers every year. The port's RO/RO growth has been in part driven by Co Tyrone-based engineering firms exporting machinery around the world.
Clare Guiness has stated;
"The roll-on/roll-off is set to continue that growth by 25-30% over the next three or four years. We're certainly on a very good trajectory."
Alongside RO/RO, Warrenpoint also exports bulk materials as well as scrap, refuse-derived fuel and woodchip, to Norway.
Seamus Leheny, Freight Transport Association manager, has said RO/RO increased by 1.5% last year, with 846,000 goods vehicles shipping to Britain.