The historic Belfast shipyard that built the Titanic will have to work on the cruise liner again after winning maintenance contracts from Cunard and P&O Cruises.
Harland & Wolff, whose cranes dominate the skies over the cities of Samson and Goliath, will work on Queen Victoria of Canada and Aurora of P&O. The companies are owned by FTSE 100 Cruise Giant Carnival Corporation.
The ships will be docked in May and June, respectively, the first time a liner has been inside the Belfast dry dock for more than two decades.
The deal is a coup for Yard, which fell into administration in August 2019 after 30 years under the ownership of Norwegian shipping magnet Frederick Olsen. It was bought a few months later by Aim-listed infrastructure company Infrastrata, which took its name. It owns four shipyards in the United Kingdom – Harland and Wolf in Belfast, Methyl in the Forth of the Fourth, the Isle of Lewis in the Lewis and the Appledore in the North Devon.
Harland and Wolf are still best known for building the Titanic. The White Star Line was launched in May 1911 and sank less than a year after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage. More than 1,500 passengers and crew, including Thomas Andrew, the shipyard’s chief naval architect, died.
The last passenger ship outside the yard was Canberra in 1960. It played an important role in the Falklands War after being converted into a troop ship at short notice.
John Wood, chief executive of Harland & Wolf, who worked as an engineer in Canberra, said winning the cruise ship contract was an important part of the company’s plans when it bought the yard. “We’ve set five target markets, and with this win we’ve worked on four of them,” he said. Cruise ship maintenance work is usually done in Spain, France and Germany.
The company now hopes to bring shipbuilding back to Belfast. It is part of Team Resolute, a consortium competing for a £ 1.5 billion Fleet Solid Support Ship Agreement to build two new aircraft carriers for the Navy, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales Support Ship.