Brexit: Warrenpoint Port has buoyant start to 2019

By Clodagh Rice
BBC News NI Business Reporter

Warrenpoint Port
Image caption,
Steel, animal feed and cement are among the items traded through Warrenpoint Port

The boss of Northern Ireland's second largest port has said customers stockpiling materials ahead of Brexit has led to a buoyant start to the year.

Warrenpoint Port handled 12% of the region's seaborne trade last year, including timber, steel and cement.

The port's chief executive Clare Guinness said it points to stockholding ahead of the UK leaving the EU.

"Customers are telling us that because of the continuing uncertainty, they are buying ahead to make sure that they have the commodities they will need after 29 March," she said.

'Uncertainty, concern about delays'

"There's clearly customers who are concerned about the uncertainty, concerned about delays, concerned about the impact of tariffs, and they are buying ahead."

Image caption,
Warrenpoint is home to Northern Ireland's second largest port, with Belfast the biggest

The port deals with imports to and exports from countries including Spain, Italy, Germany and the Americas.

Ms Guinness said the bumper start to 2019 might be offset by a quieter few months ahead.

"Unfortunately it might be a bit of frontloading, which we ordinarily might have had spread over the first quarter of the year," she added.

"Customers have obviously decided to buy forward to reduce reliance on the supply chain in the very, very uncertain months ahead."

Update 1 May 2019: This story has been amended to clarify that it is the opinion of the port's chief executive that stockpiling ahead of Brexit was a major factor in driving growth.