Belfast Telegraph

Belfast firm begins £2.1m cruise liner job

By Audrey Watson

Belfast shipping outfitters Blu Marine are sending 136 skilled workers to Singapore today to begin work on a major £2.1m contract.

Earlier this year, the company beat eight other firms to secure a contract with cruise line company Carnival Australia to overhaul two high-end luxury ships.

The Blu Marine team will be on site for 20 days in total, working around the clock to ensure the liners are ready to take passengers as quickly as possible.

The team includes engineers, designers, electricians and tradesmen - all with vast experience of marine outfitting.

"The workers have 10 days per ship, so it's a huge undertaking," Craig McCoo, Blu Marine chief executive, told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Twenty two containers of equipment and materials have already been shipped from our Airport Road base to Singapore for use on the project."

Mr McCoo, who is originally from Newtownards, started Blu Marine eight years ago in Southampton, where he had spent 12 years working as a civil engineer before spending two years working for a ship outfitting firm.

"Company growth was good, so three years ago we set up an office and workshop in Belfast, which has proved so successful that it is now our headquarters," Mr McCoo said.

"Initial turnover of just under £1m has increased steadily to this year's projection of just under £9m. Next year's projection is £12m.

"We grow as fast as we can find the people and we do find good people here in Northern Ireland," he added.

"We have 33 full-time staff, including managers, admin staff, health and safety etc.

"When we secure a contract we have a huge pool of specialist marine contractors and staff from Northern Ireland, from Newcastle and from Southampton that we can call on."

Mr McCoo admitted that it was the calibre of workers available in Northern Ireland and the fantastic facilities and support offered by Belfast Harbour that brought Blu Marine to Belfast.

"In England we advertised and advertised and were finding it increasingly difficult to find the right people," he said.

"The harbour has treated us fantastically, but the biggest advantage of having our main base in Belfast is the standard of employee and the work ethic of local people. And also the supply chain for this niche market is very strong in Northern Ireland," he added.

"To win the contract, we came up against some tough competition from firms all over the world, so this is a great boost for the company and I'm very optimistic about the future."

Blu Marine counts Cunard, Irish Ferries and P&O Irish Sea among its international shipclients.

The firm's Belfast works include joinery, upholstery and metal fabrication, a project office, warehousing and logistics.

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