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Harland and Wolff shipyard saved in £6m deal with InfraStrata

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Harland and Wolff shipyard, which built the Titanic, employed more than 30,000 people in its World War II heyday, but has been in decline for over half a century.

Dublin

HARLAND and Wolff, the Belfast shipyard that built the Titanic, has been sold by owner Dolphin Drilling to infrastructure specialists Infra-Strata for £6 million (S$10.2 million), saving the facility from closure.

InfraStrata said Harland and Wolff's multi-purpose fabrication facility, quaysides and docking facilities were ideally suited for the energy infrastructure industry and the company's projects. All 79 workers who did not opt for voluntary redundancy earlier in the year will be retained, the company said.

"Harland and Wolff is a landmark asset and its reputation as one of the finest multi-purpose fabrication facilities in Europe is testament to its highly skilled team in Belfast," Infra-Strata chief executive John Wood said on Tuesday. "Our Islandmagee Gas Storage Project will benefit greatly from their expertise in the energy sector, both technically and economically, and we look forward to growing the workforce significantly in the coming years."

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Opened in 1861, Harland and Wolff employed more than 30,000 people in its World War II heyday and remains a potent symbol of Belfast's past as an industrial engine of the British Empire.

It has been in decline for over half a century, however, and employed just 130 full-time workers, specialising in energy and marine engineering projects, when it entered administration in August.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said he was delighted Infra-Strata had purchased the shipyard and retained the skills and experience of the workforce. "I firmly believe that the shipyard has a promising future and that InfraStrata's plans present an exciting opportunity for both Belfast and Northern Ireland's manufacturing and energy sectors," he said.

Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock said the deal had secured workers' jobs with full terms and conditions after employees had occupied the shipyard for nine weeks. REUTERS