Belfast Telegraph

Iconic Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff enters administration after 160 years

Harland and Wolff in Belfast. Pic Kevin Scott
Harland and Wolff in Belfast. Pic Kevin Scott
Harland and Wolff in Belfast. Pic Kevin Scott

A giant of Northern Ireland and global heavy industry – once employing more than 30,000 workers – Harland & Wolff has shut its gates after entering administration.

The struggling shipyard is now in the hands of administrators BDO, with more than 120 jobs now facing a very uncertain future. While once a global giant in shipbuilding, the company has primarily worked on ship and rig repair as well as off-shore wind turbines.

While the political outcry to save the iconic Belfast company, amid calls from unions for the shipyard to be nationalised or receive government assistance, there have been subsequent calls from a former boss of Harland & Wolff backing State intervention.

Sir John Parker – who was chief executive and chairman of Harland & Wolff from 1983 to 1993 – said he was “deeply saddened” by the administration. “It’s a disappointment given all the years we fought to keep it alive and thriving — for all the people who over the years have made a success of it and kept it alive, when so many yards around Europe have died,” he said. “I feel for all the people who have relied on it for their living.”

BDO partners Brian Murphy and Michael Jennings took control of the business at the beginning of August.

“BDO Northern Ireland partners, Michael Jennings and Brian Murphy have been appointed as joint administrators of Harland & Wolff,” a spokesman said “Founded in 1861, the Belfast based company has in recent years specialised in wind energy and marine engineering projects.

“After a long sales process, in which a buyer could not be found, the business has been unable to continue trading due to having insufficient funds following the recent insolvency of its ultimate parent.  The team at BDO have engaged immediately with Harland & Wolff employees and other stakeholders to take all necessary steps to ensure they are supported throughout the administration process.”

The next step is in assessing the future of the firm’s assets, such as the cranes, which could yet be sold off during the administration process. However, a deal which would preserve the jobs of all the staff, some of whom have worked for the company for 40 years, looks less likely.

Harland & Wolff Shipyard was founded in 1853 by an ironmonger, Robert Hickson. It was sold to his manager, Edward Harland, in 1855. He was financed by GC Schwabe of Liverpool, whose nephew Gustav Wolff joined the firm as Harland’s assistant.  The first ship launched was the Venetian, followed by transoceanic liners for the White Star Line like the Britannic, Olympic and Oceanic.

It’s known globally for its cranes, Samson and Goliath, and as the shipyard which built the ill-fated Titanic.

The launch of the Canberra in 1960 marked the last cruise liner to be built in Belfast, and later that decade the shipyard was in declcine.

It was nationalised in 1975, and in January 2003 the last vessel fully built in Belfast, the Anvil, was launched.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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