Harland & Wolff's mega deal to refit Blackford Dolphin oil rig is a Christmas bonus
A monster will be moving into Belfast this winter.
It's so big it will mean a relocation for the landmark Harland & Wolff cranes and it will act as the city's unofficial Christmas tree, bedecked with lights, as it towers over the harbour estate in a repair deal worth tens of millions of pounds.
The mammoth Blackford Dolphin oil drilling rig, originally built in 1974 in Norway, will be upgraded and repaired in the firm's 556m x 93m main building dock, starting in November for approximately 50 days.
The Aker H-3 rig underwent a major upgrade from 2006 to 2008, when Harland & Wolff designed and built accommodation blocks, power generation module, mud room and additional buoyancy.
Dolphin Drilling is one of the longest established independent drilling contracting companies.
Harland & Wolff sales manager David McVeigh said city dwellers could expect to see a changing skyscape.
"This drill is so big that Samson and Goliath are going to have to be moved to a different part of the yard while the work is happening," he said.
"The drill will also be lit up and will be here over the Christmas period, so we like to think of it as the city's unofficial Christmas tree."
On a more serious note, Mr McVeigh said that the company's work on another rig last year helped clinch the contract.
One thousand workers helped completed the one-month project on the SeaRose "floating production, storage and offloading vessel" for the Canadian firm Husky Energy. The floating factory left Belfast four days early, under budget and with no injuries or environmental incidents before sailing to Newfoundland.
"In this industry, minimising injuries is hugely important and for a company to deliver such a large project in time, under budget and with no accidents, has made the rest of the industry really sit up and take notice," he said. "That job has really helped cement our reputation in a very competitive market."
Mr McVeigh said the growing number of firms selecting the historic Belfast hub for work was helping to boost the economy.
"The offshore market is booming and with more and more companies choosing to base themselves around the harbour, it is relatively easy to source and retrain extra staff if we need them which has knock-on benefits for everyone," he said.