Lyttelton Port Co almost doubled its annual return to Christchurch City Holdings as growing freight demands across Canterbury helped boost cargo volumes through the South Island's major maritime hub.

The council-owned port operator declared dividends of $8 million for the 2017 financial year, which it pays to Christchurch City Council's investment arm, up from $4.2m a year earlier and ahead of the $2m flagged in its annual statement of intent. The company reported a net profit of $14.4m in the 12 months ended June 30, turning from a loss of $59.8m a year earlier when it recognised $99.5m of impairment charges the year earlier. Operating earnings rose 53 per cent to $13.9m on an 8.2 per cent gain in revenue to $114.4m.

"The port has achieved record-breaking container volume in the year to June and a solid increase in profits," chief executive Peter Davie said in a statement. "We are in the enviable position of having the best balance of import and export containers of any port in the country and this produces efficiencies and cost savings for our customers."

Lyttelton Port embarked on a long-term redevelopment plan after the 2011 earthquakes, shifting its port operations on reclaimed land to the east, and is currently going through an appealed resource consent process to deepen the harbour's channel.

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The port's container volumes rose 11 per cent to 401,711 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in the year, while coal exports rose 9.6 per cent to 1.18 million tonnes and bulk fuels imports were up 2.4 per cent to 1.13 million tonnes. Log exports increased 2.1 per cent to 477,190 tonnes.