Work aims to protect Titanic dock
Work has begun to protect the Belfast dock where the Titanic was fitted out.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced his department was providing £1.5 million for preservation work on the Thompson Graving Dock. The 880ft (268m) long dock opened in 1911. The work will involve the construction of a new structure outside the existing 150ft (46m) wide steel dock gate to safeguard the dock from flooding.
Mr Attwood said: "The importance of the Thompson Graving Dock should be acknowledged. When it was completed in 1911 it was the largest dry dock in the world and without it the Titanic and its sister ships, Olympic and Britannic, could not have been completed."
The dock is maintained by the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. Mr Attwood added that the work was needed to ensure the dock's future against flooding.
"The work will not only preserve the original dock gate but will also allow better public access to the dock and the working dock floor," he said.
"It is a vital element in the Titanic experience and in itself conveys the achievement of the original build, the devastation of the loss of life and the engineering achievement of the ship designers and builders."
A director at the Northern Ireland Science Park, Mervyn Watley, said: "We are delighted that DOE (Department of Environment) have come on board to provide a more permanent measure to prevent the gate falling into disrepair and to improve access to the historical site."
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster also welcomed the announcement.
She said: "This a very significant project and will be another important part of our tourism offering. It will maintain the dock gates and ensure the Thompson dock continues to be an integral part of the whole Titanic experience."
The public will be given access to the dock floor for the first time in April.