IN the first nine months of this year, the number of passengers using the ferry terminals in ports around the Balearic Islands has reched 3.7 million, an increase of 75.48 percent when compared to the same period of the previous year. A report issued yesterday by National Ports confirmed that during September, 546'450 people passed through the installations, 42.5 percent more than the same month in 2004. The number of holidaymakers stopping off in the Islands on cruise ships grew by 12 percent during the first three quarters of the year, to reach 794'440, in spite of the fact that September witnessed a 20.6 percent fall off. Up to and including September, the Balearics had been the port of call for 513 cruise liners, some 8 percent more than in the same period the previous year. In terms of merchant shipping, at the close of the third quarter of the year, Balearic ports loaded and unloaded 12.95 percent more cargo than during the same period in 2004. Across the country as a whole, the number of seagoing passengers reached a substantial 18.2 million in the first nine months of the year, an increase of 10.3 percent. There was an increase of 12 percent in holidaymakers on cruise ships using Spanish ports between January and September, to stand at 2.9 million passengers. Ports most in use during this period were Algeciras, the Balearics, Santa Cruz on Tenerife in the Canaries, and Barcelona. By the end of the third quarter, merchandise handled nationwide totalled 328.81 million tonnes, a growth of 8.2 percent over and above the same period in 2004. National Ports suggested that if the same pace of growth were to continue, an historic cargo handling record of 450 million tonnes could be reached by year's end.

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