Harland and Wolff hoping to be part of new £1.25bn MoD shipbuilding scheme
Belfast's former shipbuilding stalwart Harland and Wolff says it hopes to be in the running for work as part of the Government's £1.25bn plan to build five new frigates.
Harland and Wolff - which built the Titanic - once employed 35,000 workers at its peak back in the 1920s, but now is down to a workforce of 115, and is primarily involved in maintenance and renewable energy contracts.
Now, the Government says it wants to build five new ships, each worth £250m.
It comes after a report by former Harland and Wolff boss Sir John Parker highlighted recommendations to transform the UK maritime industry and "boost the prosperity of regions, shipyards and maritime supply chains across the country".
David McVeigh, head of sales and marketing at Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries, said:
"H&W have supported the development of the National Shipbuilding Strategy and look forward to engaging further with the Ministry of Defence and industry partners in an effort to secure work on the T31e programme and create shipbuilding jobs."
As part of this approach, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the first batch of five Type 31e frigates could be built across different shipyards, before being assembled at a central site. Their cost would be capped at no more than £250m each.
Harland and Wolff's Jonathan Guest told the BBC that "we'd very much like to hope that Harland and Wolff would be one of those" selected for work on the ships.
The frigates are due to be in service by 2023 and shipyards would be encouraged to ensure the vessel was competitive on the global market by working with "global partners".
Harland and Wolff hasn't produced a ship in around 14 years. The last to leave Queen's Island was the £40m Anvil Point at the start of 2003. The 22,000-tonne ferry was the second of two vessels built for the Ministry of Defence.
In its heyday, Harland and Wolff was one of the world's leading shipyards and in the early 1920s it employed more than 35,000 people, but today the yard is a shadow of its former self.
In 2016, Harland and 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.
It saw turnover dropping from £66.7m, to just £8.3m in the year ending December 31, 2016.
As a result, Harland and 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.
Speaking about the new shipbuilding work, ADS chief executive Paul Everitt said: "The commitment to a long-term programme of naval shipbuilding offers an unprecedented opportunity to support UK shipyards."