Oil rig upgrade brings jobs to yard
Six hundred skilled tradesmen have been recruited to work on one of the biggest oil rigs ever to be refurbished in Belfast.
The giant offshore drilling platform is on its way from Brazil to Northern Ireland for maintenance before being redeployed to the North Sea.
The contract is worth tens of millions of pounds to Harland and Wolff shipyard and will take almost two months to complete.
David McVeigh, head of sales at the shipyard, said: "Harland and Wolff continues to compete successfully in a sector which has seen competition grow.
"Apart from being able to exceed stringent health and safety element requirements for such contracts, H&W is also capable of great flexibility which means we can put 600 contractors from electrical, welding, engineering and painting disciplines in place in a short time."
The 360ft tall Blackford Dolphin is being towed at a snail's pace across the Atlantic. It is common practice to move the hulking structures around the world. They are hired by oil companies for massive sums per day to extract fossil fuel from under the sea bed.
The equipment will be too big to fit beneath the Samson and Goliath cranes, which will have to be moved along their tracks to the city end of the building dock for the 50-day duration of the refurbishment contract.
The new employees are on short-term contracts and temporary canteen and other facilities have been established to accommodate them.
The tradesmen include welders, electricians, painters and engineers. At least 200 will be from Northern Ireland, 200 from Scotland and north-east England and the rest from Poland and Lithuania, countries with a tradition of shipyard work.