Harland & Wolff lands second multi-million pound oil rig refit job
Harland & Wolff has secured a multi-million pound contract to refit and refurbish a monster oil rig.
The shipyard's skyline will soon be dominated the Byford Dolphin drilling platform, which is currently moored off the coast at Whitehead.
The massive structure is the sister of the Blackford Dolphin - which spent six months at the shipyard for similar work last year - and is owned by Aberdeen-based Dolphin Drilling Ltd.
The refurbishment is set to bring contract work for as many as 1,000 skilled workers - with some local welders coming from the recently-formed welding academy delivered by Belfast Metropolitan College and the Northern Regional College to meet a skills shortage.
It's understood the total contract could be worth in excess of £100m, with Harland & Wolff set to benefit from a portion of that.
It's hoped the deal will also have a trickle-down effect for Belfast's hotels, restaurants and bars because of the additional workers coming in from across the UK and the rest of Europe.
With such a huge oil rig coming to Belfast once again, the world-famous cranes, Samson and Goliath, are being moved to make way for the 360ft structure.
It's understood the Byford Dolphin could be in Belfast within the next few days, although the weather will play a factor in its towing.
Councillor Dr John Kyle said the latest announcement was "excellent news" for east Belfast, especially with the use of some newly-qualified young local welders.
"It's great news, because the rig is coming in and secures further work for local people. It also has a cascade effect for other local businesses," the PUP man said.
The latest big deal for Harland & Wolff comes after Dolphin Drilling awarded the contract, worth tens of millions of pounds, to the shipyard for the dry-docking of the Blackford rig in August 2013.
Around 1.2m tonnes of water had to removed from the longest dock in the world to accommodate the rig, which has a rated water depth of 7,000ft and a drilling depth of 30,000 ft.
While the initial work schedule was only supposed to take around two months, the structure underwent additional months of repairs by welders, electricians, painters and engineers from the UK, Poland and Portugal.
As it was lit up at night to allow for 24/7 work, it became affectionately known as the city's unofficial Christmas tree over the festive period.
On its inbound journey it took more than three months to tow the rig across the Atlantic from Brazil. The job getting it out of the harbour involved several tug boats.
Dolphin Drilling is one of the longest-established independent drilling contracting companies. At the time, Harland & Wolff said the firm's work on another rig in 2012 had helped clinch the contract. There was also speculation that if the Blackford project went well, it could mean up to three more contracts coming to Belfast.
The Byford Dolphin is a huge oil rig owned by Aberdeen-based Dolphin Drilling. Built in 1974, it's a 355ft monster, weighing around 12,000 tonnes. It's able to drill as far down as around 6,000 metres and can operate in water as deep as 460 metres. It's the sister rig of the Blackford Dolphin, which was docked at H&W for around six months.