Belfast Telegraph

H&W suffers tough year with job cuts and losses of £6m

By John Mulgrew

Harland & Wolff cut dozens of staff in an "unacceptable" year amid "difficult market conditions" which saw sales collapse and the firm posting massive losses of £6m.

The former Belfast shipbuilder, which constructed the Titanic, saw turnover dropping from £66.7m, to just £8.3m in the year ending December 31, 2016.

As a result Harland & Wolff Heavy Industries turned the previous year's £1m profit into an almost £6m loss.

The company said "in recognition of the very difficult trading conditions" the firm "further reduced its core employment in the second quarter of 2016".

It now has 115 staff, down from 170 at the end of the previous year.

"The directors consider the results for the year to be unacceptable but reflective of the very difficult market conditions in 2016," the firm's strategic report said.

In the last year the yard provided services to 24 vessels and said it "continued its strong relationship" with Stena Line.

Speaking about one of its latest contracts, it said work will start on the assembly of 24 'jackets' for wind turbines in the third quarter of 2017.

"The main risks continue to be its ability to generate sufficient volumes of work and revenue to cover the underlying cost base, manage projects within budget and therefore generate a profit," the report said.

"The very difficult trading conditions during 2016 meant that the company had a low level of revenue, and hence incurred a significant loss during the year, despite taking further actions to reduce its cost base.

"It is clear 2017 will again be a difficult and challenging year. To secure activity at the levels required, the company is monitoring the position so it can react quickly to changing circumstances."

Robert J Cooper, chief executive of Harland & Wolff Heavy Industries Limited, said: "The downturn in the oil and gas market coupled with the delay in approving new offshore wind farm licences in recent years has proven to be a great challenge to all economic sectors, including manufacturing. And 2016 was a particularly challenging year where the majority of projects under tender were delayed, reduced in scope or cancelled.

"H&W's frustration has been somewhat alleviated by the recent series of contract awards for major projects such as East Anglia One Offshore Wind Farm where we shall be constructing 24 large wind turbine jackets, contracts for the docking of the entire Stena Line Irish Sea ferry fleet between December 2016 and May 2017, and over 2,500 tonnes of other fabrication work.

"While there is no doubt the 2016 results are disappointing, the recently secured major contracts have given us a platform from which to move forward into the future."

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