Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group has reported higher revenues and earnings for the year to the end of December as its new ferry, the WB Yeats, came into service.

ICG's revenue for the year increased by 8.2% to €357.4m, while its earning before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation rose by almost 27% to €86.8m from €68.4m.

Overall group operating profit (EBIT) for the year increased by 8.2% to €64.9m and the company said it is proposing a final dividend of 8.99 cent, an increase of 5%.

ICG chairman John B McGuckian said that 2019 was a successful year for the group, with material growth across both divisions and the company meeting a number of its longer term strategic goals.

"In the Ferries division, the WB Yeats entered service and we were greatly encouraged by its first year of operations," the chairman said.

"We have successfully expanded our container ship fleet with the purchase of the Thetis D and CT Rotterdam and extended the service concession agreement for the operations of Belfast Container Terminal," he added.

He said that after Brexit, current rules on trade, travel and business for the UK and EU will continue to apply until the end of the transition period, currently scheduled for no later than the 31 December. 

"There is uncertainty as to the form of the trade deal, if any, which may be negotiated and applicable post the transition period. Nevertheless, we look forward in 2020 to another year of growth across our businesses and further progress in meeting our long term strategic goals," Mr McGuckian added.

He also said that ICG had noted the current and evolving Covid-19 outbreak. 

"We continue to monitor the situation in our areas of operation and work closely with all relevant authorities," he added.

Irish Ferries' car carryings during the year were up on the previous year by 2.2% to 401,300 cars.

ICG noted that in the first half of the year, car volumes fell by 6%, reflecting the planned withdrawal of fastcraft services in the winter period.

But during the second half of the year, volumes were up by 8.3%, mainly due to the disruption to services of the Ulysses in 2018 and additional conventional ferry services on the Dublin-Holyhead route after the introduction of the WB Yeats.

The company's passenger numbers also increased by 2.6% at 1.541 million from 1.502 million in 2018. 

Passenger volumes fell by 4.7% in the first half of the year, but in the second half of the year, which is seasonally more significant, the increase in passenger numbers was 8.5%.

Meanwhile, Irish Ferries said its RoRo carryings, at 313,200 freight units jumped by 10.4% in the year with volumes up 7.4% in the first half and up 13.5% in the second half. 

ICG said that containers handled at its terminals in Dublin Ferryport Terminals (DFT) and Belfast Container Terminal (BCT) were up 3.5% at 320,800 lifts. 

DFT's volumes were up 4.4%, while BCT's lifts were up 2.1%, the company added.

Shares in the company reversed their earlier gains to stand lower in Dublin trade this afternoon.