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Belfast Harbour is set to build a new £9m warehouse at Westbank Road on the Harbour Estate to help meet growing demand from logistics operators as roro traffic at the port reaches an all-time high, following Brexit.

Belfast Harbour authorities saw record trade volumes last year, with 25.6 million tonnes handled by the port, up 9% on the previous year.

It attributes the rise largely to a post-Brexit diversion of traffic away from Great Britain (GB) to Republic of Ireland (RI) routes.

While Brexit’s Northern Ireland (NI) Protocol requires checks on goods entering NI from GB, the processes are not as rigorous as those applied on GB shipments to the Republic of Ireland.

While the ongoing grace periods remain there are fewer checks at NI ports and there are no restraints on NI exporters selling into the rest of the UK market if they ship from NI ports.

As a result Belfast Harbour is seeing unprecedented levels of trade and rising demand for warehousing.

The new 50,000sq ft warehouse, which will have a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating, will include provision of high efficiency chilled and ambient warehouse space with 17 loading docks, over 40 HGV parking spaces, and parking provision for both cars and bicycles.

The site on Westbank Road is close to the port’s RoRo ferry terminals, providing close access for freight travelling to and from Great Britain.

Announcing planning permission for the warehouse, Belfast Harbour said that the volume of roro traffic moving through the port is at “an all-time high”, aided by recent investments made by the port in terminal infrastructure and StenaLine’s addition of new ships serving NI to GB routes.

It added that the site was a “compelling location” for logistics operators and offered opportunities to develop more warehousing to meet growing demand.

Michael Robinson, port director at Belfast Harbour, said: “We are really pleased to see the new logistics warehouse receive planning permission as we believe the development will further cement Belfast Harbour’s place as NI’s key shipping and logistics hub.

“The decision to proceed with this project at the heart of the Port was driven by both an increase in customer demand, and the desire from logistics and supply chain businesses to improve connectivity and increase sustainability through reduced mileage.

“The warehouse will not only provide much needed new capacity in the sector but will also create jobs locally and support Belfast Harbour’s position as a world leading regional port and key economic hub for the region.”