Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group has reported a solid set of results for 2017 despite increase fuel costs and the effect of weaker sterling.

Group fuel costs rose by over 25% to €40.3m during the year.

ICG said its operating profit came in at €89m, up from €62.6m in 2016.

Revenue for the year to the end of December rose by 3% to €335.1m from €325.4m the previous year.

The company said its container volumes were up almost 6% with car traffic up around 2.4% to 424,000 units.

ICG has proposed a final dividend of 8.15 cent for the year, up 5% on the final dividend of 7.76 cent in 2016.

During the year, the company completed the sale of the MV Kaitaki vessel to New Zealand ferry operator KiwiRail, generating a profit on sale before tax of €28.7m. 

ICG is also expecting the delivery of the new cruise ferry MV W.B. Yeats this summer, which will sail between Ireland and France on the Dublin-Cherbourg route.

The company has also agreed to buy a new cruise ferry, built by German company Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesselschaf and which is due to be delivered in 2020, for €165.2m. 

The ship is being built specifically for Irish Ferries' Dublin-Holyhead services.

Breaking down its divisions, ICG said that revenues at its Irish Ferries unit rose by 1.1% to €212.1m while earnings before interest, tax and depreciation fell 4.8% to €67.3m on the back of higher fuel costs which rose by €5.2m.

The company said the total sea passenger market - car, coach and foot passengers - to and from the Republic of Ireland increased by 1% to a total of 3.13 million passengers, while the all-island market rose by 1.9%.

Meanwhile, Irish Ferries' RoRo freight carryings increased by 0.5% to 287,500 freight units with volumes down 0.4% in the first half of the year and up 1.3% in the second half. 

ICG noted that the strong growth in the freight market last year reflected the continued strong performance of the Irish economy.

Revenues at ICG's container and terminal division rose by 6.5% to €131.9m while EBITDA increased by 7% to €13.7m.

The company said that containers handled by its terminal operations in Dublin Ferryport Terminals and Belfast Container Terminal rose by 3% at 296,800 lifts.

Shares in the company closed 1.6% higher to €5.84 in Dublin trade this evening.