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360ft Blackford Dolphin oil rig arrives in Belfast from Brazil to be refurbished at Harland & Wolff



Not even Belfast's tallest building is too big to fit beneath the colossal Samson and Goliath cranes – but the 360ft Blackford Dolphin oil rig is.

The giant offshore drilling platform has made its way from Brazil to Northern Ireland for maintenance, before being redeployed to the North Sea.

One of the biggest oil rigs ever to be refurbished at the Harland & Wolff shipyard was towed at a snail's pace across the Atlantic to Belfast, taking more than three months to get here.

The shipyard's landmark yellow gantry cranes, Samson and Goliath, have had to be moved along their tracks to the city end of the building dock for the 60-day duration of the refurbishment contract.

Around 1.2m tonnes of water had to removed from what is still 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.

Some 600 skilled tradesmen, including welders, electricians, painters and engineers have been recruited to work on the project, with around a third of the temporary workers sourced from Northern Ireland.

Once the work is complete, the rig will begin its next drilling contract in the North Sea.

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Aberdeen-based Dolphin Drilling Ltd awarded the contract – worth tens of millions of pounds – to Harland & Wolff for the dry-docking of the mammoth Blackford rig earlier this year.

David McVeigh, head of sales and marketing at Harland & Wolff, said the contract could lead to more lucrative new work in 2014.

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