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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Harland and Wolff: Shipyard that built Titanic to go into administration

The RMS Titanic which was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast which is due to be placed into administration later on today. Photo: PA/PA Wire
The RMS Titanic which was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast which is due to be placed into administration later on today. Photo: PA/PA Wire
File photo dated 23/07/2019 of Samson and Goliath, the twin shipbuilding gantry cranes at Harland and Wollf shipyard in Belfast which is due to be placed into administration later on today.Liam McBurney/PA Wire
FILE PHOTO: John Parkinson, President of the Belfast Titanic Society, who as a young boy watched the Titanic leave Belfast, looks over a large model of the doomed ship during the opening of the "Titanic At Home" exhibition in Robinson's Saloon in Belfast, March 31, 2004. REUTERS/Paul McErlane
File photo dated 15/09/2014 of HMS Belfast that was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast which is due to be placed into administration later on today.Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
File photo dated 07/01/1984 of Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast which is due to be placed into administration later on today: PA/PA Wire
Harland and Wolff workers and supporters during a rally to save the shipyard, as an additional five days has been made available to save an under-threat Belfast shipyard following the delay of a visit by administrators.Liam McBurney/PA Wire

David Young and Rebecca Black

The Belfast shipyard famous for building the Titanic is set to go into administration.

Harland and Wolff, one of Northern Ireland's most historic brands, is facing closure after its trouble-hit Norwegian parent company Dolphin Drilling failed to find a buyer.

Workers have occupied the site since last Monday as part of a high-profile campaign to save the yard, which is due to formally cease trading at 5.15pm on Monday.

The shipbuilder, whose famous yellow cranes Samson and Goliath dominate the Belfast skyline, employed more than 30,000 people during Belfast's industrial heyday, but now the workforce only numbers around 125.

It has diversified away from shipbuilding in the last two decades and until recently had primarily worked on wind energy and marine engineering projects.

Famed for building the doomed White Star liner Titanic, which sank on its maiden transatlantic voyage in 1912 after striking an iceberg, Harland and Wolff was one of the UK's key industrial producers during the Second World War, supplying almost 150 warships.

Employees of Harland and Wolff during their protest at the gates of the shipyard in Belfast, waiting to hear if there will be a last minute deal to keep the business from closing
Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Employees of Harland and Wolff during their protest at the gates of the shipyard in Belfast, waiting to hear if there will be a last minute deal to keep the business from closing Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Workers have called on the Government to step in to rescue the operation, potentially through nationalisation.

But the Government has declined to intervene, insisting the issue is a commercial one.

Officials insist that EU State Aid rules limit the scope to offer financial support through public funds.

Speculation around potential eleventh-hour bidders has so far proved unfounded, with no-one tabling an offer to stave off administration.

Workers are due to meet this afternoon when they will decide whether to continue the occupation and prevent administrators accessing the site.

They will also meet DUP leader Arlene Foster at Stormont to discuss the situation.

Barry Reid, shop steward with the GMB union and a Harland and Wolff steel worker, questioned the contention that EU state aid rules prevented Government intervention.

"It's a waiting game today, we are waiting to hear news," he said.

"The Government keeps quoting European law - that's all we get out of them, European law. It's very strange when on October 31 we are out of Europe, so why are they hiding behind European law when they don't want to believe in European law?"

Harland & Wolff employed almost 9,500 people between 1907 and 1912, when the Titanic was completed.
Photo: Getty Images
Harland & Wolff employed almost 9,500 people between 1907 and 1912, when the Titanic was completed. Photo: Getty Images

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