Belfast Telegraph

State papers reveal Harland & Wolff closure fears were rife in the 1990s

H&W’s cranes could have been dismantled if the company had been closed down the 1990s
H&W’s cranes could have been dismantled if the company had been closed down the 1990s

By David O'Dornan

Harland & Wolff's famous cranes could go if the company was closed down, officials warned in the 1990s.

The uncertainty facing the shipyard is set out in previously classified files made public today.

A cache of papers from the 1990s has been released under the 20-year rule, which is being phased in at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

One file on H&W closure costs will resonate with current workers who fear for their jobs at the shipyard.

The business entered administration earlier this month, placing 120 jobs at risk. Administrators BDO have confirmed the existence of potential buyers.

Concerns over H&W's future are revealed in the files from the 1990s released today.

A draft document from 1993 even talked about the iconic yellow cranes Samson and Goliath being dismantled.

A DFP document from DJ Ritchie addressed to Mr D McConnell of the Industrial Development Board, dated March 9, 1993, contained a draft Harland Cost of Closure Analysis report.

It stated: "Our cost to closure analysis has focused on the key cost areas, in particular contract costs and redundancy cost estimates supplied by the company.

"We have additionally reviewed the company's assumptions for the more general cost items, such as general closure costs and the risk contingency.

"We have revised the company's estimate of total possible costs excluding risk contingency of £244m to £225.5m.

"We have reviewed the H&W estimate of £76.7m for redundancies. This figure includes £37m for 'terminal bonus'. We do not consider this scheme to be practical or effective.

"The use of incentive payments allocated to key performance targets and milestones are likely to be successful if the company can manage such a scheme. We have estimated £10m for an incentive payment scheme. The revised estimate for redundancy costs and incentive payments came in at £50m."

Under closure costs the report stated that "closing down H&W will be a complex task" and said its famous cranes could go.

It added: "The yard has some massive and expensive equipment which needs to be dismantled, especially the two heavy lift cranes."

The files detail a series of "principal areas of risk" from closing H&W. These include sabotage or disruption of vessels; an extended strike or sit-in which affected the ability… to deliver a ship; or a "slow and extensive work to rule" which meant productivity fell badly and delivery dates were pushed further back.

The files released today also deal with a range of political issues around the mid-1990s, including relations between the two governments and meetings between politicians and civil servants during the peace talks.

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