The owner of Irish Ferries today reported a strong performance in carryings to and from Ireland in 2016 despite the Brexit vote.

The ferry company handled 3.3% more cars at 414,100 over the previous year in a market estimated to have grown by just 2% including routes to Northern Ireland.

Irish Ferries’ passenger numbers fell by 3.2% to 1.6 million. However, this came against a backdrop of an overall decline to and from Ireland of 3.1% to 3.1 million passengers and a 1.2% drop in all routes, including Northern Ireland.

The company was helped by lower fuel costs, with ferries division revenue up by 2.9% year-on-year to €209.8 million and earnings [EBITDA] rising by 11% to €70.7 million.

John McGuckian, chairman of parent company Irish Continental Group, said that trading conditions remain favourable ahead of the introduction of a new €144 million ferry due for delivery next year.

“Despite the current uncertainty surrounding the impact of the UK decision to leave the EU and the weakness of sterling, the Irish Sea markets continue to perform well,” he said.

“Due to the ongoing improvement in the economic outlook in our sphere of operations, we look forward to another year of volume growth in our markets, but with higher fuel prices and weaker sterling.

“Nonetheless, we expect 2017 to be a year of strong cash generation and to see the continued strengthening of our balance sheet.

“We look forward to the arrival in 2018 of our new ship which will bring cost savings and significant additional earnings potential to the group.”