The historic Belfast shipyard that built the Titanic is to work on cruise liners again after winning maintenance contracts from Cunard and P&O Cruises.
Harland & Wolff, whose cranes Samson and Goliath dominate the city’s skyline, will work on Cunard’s Queen Victoria and P&O’s Aurora. The companies are owned by the FTSE 100 cruise giant Carnival Corporation.
The ships will be drydocked in May and June respectively, the first time a liner has been inside the Belfast dry docks for more than two decades.
The contract is a coup for the yard, which after a chequered 30 years under the ownership of the Norwegian shipping magnate Fredrik Olsen fell into administration in August 2019. It was bought by the Aim-listed infrastructure company Infrastrata a few months later, which took its name. It owns four UK shipyards — Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Methil on the Firth of Forth, Arnish on the Isle of Lewis and Appledore in north Devon.
Harland & Wolff is still best known for building the Titanic. The White Star Line vessel was launched in May 1911 and sank less than a year later after hitting an iceberg in the north Atlantic on its maiden voyage. More than 1,500 passengers and crew died, including Thomas Andrews, the shipyard’s chief naval architect.
The last passenger ship out of the yard was the Canberra in 1960. It played a crucial role in the Falklands war after being converted to a troop ship at short notice.
John Wood, Harland & Wolff’s chief executive, who worked as an engineer on the Canberra, said winning cruise ship contracts had been an important part of the company’s plan when it bought the yard. “We set out five target markets, and with this win we have work in four of them,” he said. Cruise ship maintenance work has typically been done in Spain, France and Germany.
The company now hopes to bring shipbuilding back to Belfast. It is part of Team Resolute, one of the consortia vying for the £1.5 billion Fleet Solid Support ship contract to build auxiliary vessels to support the navy’s two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.