Monday, September 20, 2021

As International Maritime Vessel Contract Rages One Iconic British Shipyard Builds a Recovery

Toys Fly from the French Pram as Old School Get Back to Business
Shipping News Feature

UK – The nation's shipbuilding and servicing industries may only be a tiny fraction of what they once were, production having moved far to the East, but one iconic name at least seems to be enjoying something of a revival.

Hot on the heels of the news that the French have lost out, with a degree of bad grace, to see their perceived deal with Australia for the building of a fleet of nuclear submarines fall by the wayside, comes news that the 160 year old firm of Harland & Wolff is doing rather better these days.

The petulant French foreign minister showed his disgust at the cancellation of the (unsigned) £48 billion deal, calling the UK a ‘spare tyre’ in the new AUKUS partnership, whilst the country’s ambassadors to Australia and the US were recalled amongst accusations of ‘lies and deceit’ (quel mauvais perdant).

Meanwhile the Belfast and Appledore outfit, these days an InfraStrata plc subsidiary, soon to be known as Harland & Wolff Group Holdings plc, has told of the work it has attracted of late which, whilst insignificant as compared to the heady days of yesteryear, is still not to be sneezed at.

In Belfast the company has provided its first major in-service support to Virgin Voyage’s Scarlet Lady cruise vessel. This was seen as a significant step towards providing high value added services to clients whilst ensuring vessels remain in operation, thus saving clients’ money by avoiding dry dockings and the need to take vessels out of service.

Currently home to the P&O Azura, the largest cruise vessel to have entered the Belfast yard thus far, and at the quayside of the Repair Dock, Harland & Wolff (Belfast) is also set to welcome the Dorset Spirit, a crude oil tanker measuring over 279 metres in length. Sailing from Canada into Harland & Wolff’s Building Dock for repair works, this is the first time since the acquisition of the company assets in 2019 that a vessel of this size will enter the Building Dock.

Meanwhile at the Appledore yard the company awaits the arrival of the MT Entsha, an offshore supply ship, expected to arrive during the third week of October. Fabrication work has already commenced on a major crane upgrade and mezzanine deck as part of its wider conversion works that will be undertaken once the vessel has docked. This project effectively reactivates Harland & Wolff (Appledore)’s fabrication halls and demonstrates its readiness to take on larger and more complex works programmes.

As the UK Government recently launched the National Shipbuilding Office, an announcement was made that the Harland & Wolff led consortium that includes Foreship and SMC has been successfully down-selected for the design phase of the prestigious National Flagship Programme. The ship, to relace HMY Britannia will be built in the UK with construction expected to begin as soon as next year. John Wood, Group CEO of commented:

“It is fantastic to see multiple contracts being awarded to Harland & Wolff across Belfast and Appledore. These range from minor ‘bread & butter’ type of works to major contracts that have the capacity to grow even more in value over time. We are now being recognised as a shipyard business that is professional, cost effective and customer attentive.

"This recognition is clearly demonstrated by a series of new client wins and repeat business from our existing clients. Looking ahead, I believe that we have laid the firm foundations for rapid growth and the build-up of a contractual pipeline for 2022 and beyond.”

Photo: The Belfast site looks to be a lot sunnier than (inset) the countenance of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.