Maritime Belfast Trust is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee, established in 2007 to preserve and promote Belfast’s maritime heritage. Formerly known as Titanic Foundation Limited, the charity was initially set up by the Department for Economy, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour and Titanic Quarter Limited to independently develop and safeguard Titanic Belfast, the £76 million visitor attraction which opened on the 31st March 2012, marking the centenary of the sinking of RMS Titanic.
Prior to opening the attraction, Maritime Belfast Trust outsourced the management and operations of Titanic Belfast to an external commercial operator for a 25-year period. The operator pays an annual base payment to the charity and an overage payment linked to visitor numbers; this provides the main source of income for the charity. Titanic Belfast’s success, prior to the impact of COVID-19, has generated significant funds, supporting Maritime Belfast to take on new projects. This has allowed the charity to develop its skills and reputation as an influential heritage trust, whilst also building financial reserves.
The charity’s achievements to date can be split into capital projects, heritage preservation and destination placemaking with community engagement at its core. Key achievements include;
Capital Projects – Tourist Attractions and Heritage Preservation
- the development and opening of Titanic Belfast: which in its first 7 years of operations has attracted over 6 million visitors, won World’s Best Visitor Attraction (2016) and generated £320million additional tourist spend for the local economy,
- the restoration of the former Harland & Wolff building and Drawing Offices into Titanic Hotel Belfast – saving a Grade B listed building which was on the ‘At Risk’ register,
- the acquisition of SS Nomadic, the last White Star ship in the world,
- preserving the extremely rare Mew Island Lighthouse Optic, placing it on permanent public display as the Great Light.
Destination Placemaking & Community Engagement
- In 2014, the charity established a Destination Forum for local businesses within the Titanic Quarter area, stimulating networking and clustering across the site. Outputs and initiatives have focused on joint marketing, experience development, training and enhancing destination connectivity.
- Engaging with over 100 local stakeholders, Maritime Belfast Trust produced the Titanic Quarter Destination Plan (2018), highlighting the need for the city’s iconic waterfront to be connected, vibrant and a place where heritage counts. An emerging priority from this work was the development of the Maritime Mile – one navigational mile of water and ten kilometers of land-based waterfront joined together as a seamless, riverside experience. The charity, working with Belfast Harbour, Titanic Quarter Limited and Odyssey Trust, has launched exciting plans for the Maritime Mile, with a number of projects already taking shape since 2019.
- Since inception, the charity has worked closely with Belfast City Council to animate Titanic Quarter and more recently the wider Maritime Mile. Over the last six years this included growing the Belfast Maritime Festival, increasing footfall along the waterfront by 300%.
- Delivered an annual programme of events through which the charity has engaged 470,000 people from 364 community groups and schools and supported 132 partner organisations and businesses. In 2020, the charity undertook a rebranding exercise to reflect its achievements and growing remit along Belfast’s developing waterfront. It was officially relaunched as Maritime Belfast Trust in November 2020.
Charitable Purpose, Vision and Mission Statement
Maritime Belfast Trust purposes as defined in its governing documents and agreed with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland are as follows:
- the advancement of education of the public regarding Belfast’s maritime and industrial heritage particularly with respect to RMS Titanic, in particular but not exclusively by the establishment of a visitors’ centre within the Titanic Quarter, Belfast;
- the advancement of arts, culture, heritage and science for the public regarding Belfast’s maritime and industrial heritage and the Belfast waterfront;
- the advancement of citizenship or community development for the public benefit by improving, maintaining or demonstrating the need for accessible public spaces, facilities, amenities and community engagement to promote a socially inclusive Belfast waterfront.