The number of cruise passengers handled by independent port operator Global Ports Holdings grew by more than half in the traditionally quieter first quarter of the year.

Numbers rose by 52.4% year-on-year to 510,000 passengers.

Passenger growth was driven by the first time contribution of new ports, while total cruise revenue was up by 4.6% to $5.4 million.

However, the company, which runs ports such as Barcelona, Malaga and Valletta, reported deeper after tax losses of $13.8 million for the three months from $8.8 million due to non-cash foreign exchange charges.

The firm signed a 30-year port concession in Antigua and Barbuda was awarded preferred bidder status for Nassau cruise port in the Bahamas.

“We continue to work with all parties towards a successful conclusion of both agreements and further announcements, as appropriate, will be made in due course,” the company said.

Looking forward, Global Ports Holding said: “It is early in the cruise season but we are pleased to report strong growth in Turkish cruise passengers, particularly at Ege Port in Kusadasi.”

CEO Emre Sayin said: “Trading has been positive, with good growth in cruise passenger volumes and cruise ebitda, albeit the first quarter is a seasonally quiet period for the cruise business.

“We continue to deliver on our inorganic cruise growth strategy in the Americas and are making progress to full financial closure and commencement of the concessions in Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas.

“While some negative volume trends at our commercial ports have persisted into Q1 2019, overall the ports continue to perform in line with our ebitda expectations and our work to diversify our revenue streams means we remain confident of good commercial ebitda performance in the year.

“Trading at both our cruise and commercial ports have continued to perform in line with our expectations as we head into the summer season.”