Two thirds of the seaborne trade in Northern Ireland and a quarter of the seaborne trade for the whole of Ireland is handled at Belfast. Over 9000 vessels pass through every year, carrying two million passengers and half a million units of freight annually, making it the busiest port in Ireland. Belfast dominates the dry bulk market for animal feed, grain, fertilisers, coal and cement as long as scrap and aggregates exports. The port also handles over 95% of the petroleum and oil products in Northern Ireland. The port is a good destination for passengers but also offers importers and exporters a range of shipping services cross-channel and to Europe as well as logistical support as a complement.
As well as nearly 2 million passengers using the port every year there are 400,000 cars arriving and leaving on the passenger ferries. A wide number of routes serve Belfast. You can arrive there or leave there from Stranraer on the west of Scotland , Liverpool in the North-west of England, Troon - the home of the famous golf club on also on the west of Scotland and the Isle of Man. Each day there are 16 sailings from the Port. 10 of these go to Stranraer from the Stena Line terminal. There are two sailings to Troon every day from Donegal Quay on SeaCat. Sailings to Isle of Man take place on SeaCat twice a week but only during the summertime. Norse Merchant Ferries sail to Liverpool from the Victoria Terminal 2 on a daily basis overnight and 5 times a day.
During the reign of James 1 in 1613, he incorporated via royal charter the town of Belfast as a borough. As part of this there was provision for a quay or a wharf to be established. Thus, a quay was built where the Rivers Lagan and Fearset meet. This was how the Port of Belfast was established.
Trade continued to expand through that century up to the point that the quay required expanding so that more ships could be accommodated. It had to grow again in the eighteenth century when the town replaced Carrickfergus as the pre-eminent port in Ulster. In 1785 an act was passed in the Irish Parliament create the rather clumsily titled Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port and Harbour of Belfast - otherwise called the "Ballast Board". A new channel was built to make the port deeper, have less bends and make the quays more adequate. The port you see today is the result of much love and care.