Other News In Brief

Contract Awarded For Belfast Harbour Terminal Upgrade

The Belfast Harbour terminal which services the Belfast-Liverpool route is set to undergo a £15 million upgrade.

The Victoria Terminal 2 (VT2) will be redeveloped to handle the next generation of modern RoRo (Roll-On / Roll-Off) ferry vessels.

VT2 currently handles more than 200,000 freight units annually on the Belfast-Liverpool route.

The new E-Flexer ships, which are currently under construction in China and are due to enter into service in the Irish Sea in 2020 and 2021, will be substantially bigger than the ships currently on the route and will enhance freight capacity by 40%.  

Local contractor GRAHAM has been appointed to deliver the project, which will sustain 100 jobs through the construction and installation of new ramp infrastructure that will accommodate the berthing of Stena Line's new E-Flexer ships.

Michael Robinson, Port Director, Belfast Harbour said: "The upgrade of the VT2 ferry terminal represents another significant investment by Belfast Harbour in Northern Ireland's transport infrastructure and will provide best-in-class facilities for Northern Ireland’s importers and exporters.  

"The project includes the design and construction of a new two-tier ramp that will make it faster to load and discharge traffic, improve customers' experience and enhance connectivity to one of Northern Ireland's key markets. By supporting the introduction of larger vessels the investment also futureproofs Belfast Harbour's ferry facilities and strengthens our long-term partnership with Stena Line."

The project is part of Belfast Harbour's long-term investment strategy in Port infrastructure. It follows a recent £1.5m investment that increased VT2's landside capacity and improved its entrance and accessibility in preparation for the arrival of the new vessels.

Stephen Hand, Pre-construction Director, GRAHAM, added: "This major construction project will include new berthing infrastructure and the installation of a new double deck linkspan that will allow vehicles to drive simultaneously onto the ferry. 

"The berthing facilities at VT2 need to be upgraded to accommodate new and bigger vessels. This project will create new berthing infrastructure and enable efficient vehicle access to ships."

Work is expected to start on the redevelopment in June 2019 and will be completed in early 2020.

Review Of NI Business Rates Welcomed

An announcement by the Department of Finance that a comprehensive review of business rates is to be held has been welcomed by Retail NI and Hospitality Ulster.
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In a joint statement, Chief Executives of Retail NI and Hospitality Ulster Glyn Roberts and Colin Neill said: "Both our organisations are delighted that the Department of Finance have announced this review into non-domestic rates. We have consistently lobbied for this over a number of years and are pleased that our joint call has been heard.

"While this is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. This review provides us with a roadmap for radical change to an antiquated and not fit for purpose system of business rates which is a major burden for our members.

"In this review we will be outlining significant changes to Rates, including our proposals for a targeted approach to small business rates relief, a revamp of the Rates Hardship fund, green rates rebate for business who invest in carbon neutral technology and greater relief for new start businesses.

"At the last UK Budget, the Chancellor gave independent retailers and hospitality businesses a third off their rate bills in England. We want nothing less than this for our members in Northern Ireland."

Julie Galbraith, Partner, Northern Ireland Head of Real Estate and Retail, Food, and Hospitality, DWF Belfast said: "The fluidity in the relationship between retail, the high street and the consumer is only set to accelerate in 2019 and beyond. It is therefore welcome news that a comprehensive review of business rates will be held by the Department of Finance. 

"This is a very important step for public and private sector collaboration, which is vital if we are to drive the 'overhaul' and regeneration of our high streets in Northern Ireland."

SDLP Welcome The Gillen Review

The SDLP has welcomed the publication of a review into how the courts in Northern Ireland deal with serious sexual offences.

Retired Judge Sir John Gillen presented his recommendations to the Department of Justice earlier this week, the most notable of which involves restricting public access to court rooms in cases of rape or serious sexual offences.

SDLP Policing and Justice Spokesperson Dolores Kelly said the "long overdue" changes should be enacted in their entirety. "Any cherry picking would undermine the report and what is trying to be achieved," she commented.

"For too long victims of sexual assault have been retraumitised through long drawn out court proceedings and instances of 'trial by social media'.

"The SDLP will be calling on the Department of Justice to implement these recommendations in full, as soon as possible, to ensure serious sexual offence cases are carried out with the utmost diligence with the dignity of victims protected."


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