Harland and Wolff

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Harland and Wolff
Type Private Limited Company
Industry Civil Engineering
Marine Engineering
Founded 1861
Nationalised 1977
Privatised 1989
Headquarters Belfast
Key people Edward James Harland
Gustav Wilhelm Wolff
William James Pirrie
Thomas Andrews
Fred Olsen
Owner(s) Fred. Olsen Energy
Employees 500
Website www.harland-wolff.com

Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries is a British heavy industrial company, specialising in shipbuilding and offshore construction, located in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The shipyard has built many ships; among the more famous are the White Star trio Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, the Royal Navy's HMS Belfast, Royal Mail's Andes, Shaw Savill's Southern Cross and P&O's Canberra.

Early history

Harland and Wolff was formed in 1861 by Edward James Harland (1831–1895) and Hamburg-born Gustav Wilhelm Wolff (1834–1913, in the UK from age 14). In 1858 Harland, then general manager, bought the small shipyard on Queen's Island from his employer Robert Hickson.

File:Knocking off at Harland & Wolff, Belfast.jpg
Workers leaving the shipyard at Queens Road in early 1911. The RMS Titanic can be seen in the background, underneath the Arrol gantry.

After buying Hickson's shipyard, Harland made his assistant Wolff a partner in the company. Wolff was the nephew of Gustavus Schwabe, a financier from Hamburg, who was heavily invested in the Bibby Line, and the first three ships that the newly incorporated shipyard built were for that line. Harland made a success of the business through several innovations, notably replacing the wooden upper decks with iron ones which increased the strength of the ships; and giving the hulls a flatter bottom and squarer section, which increased their capacity.

Statue of Edward James Harland in the grounds of Belfast City Hall

When Harland died in 1894, William James Pirrie became the chairman of the company until his death in 1924. Thomas Andrews also became the general manager and head of the draughting department in 1907. It was during this period that the company built the RMS Olympic and her sister-ships RMS Titanic and HMHS Britannic between 1909 and 1914, commissioning Sir William Arrol & Co. to construct a massive twin gantry and slipway structure for the project.

In 1912, the company acquired another shipyard at Govan in Glasgow, Scotland. It bought the London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co's Middleton and Govan New shipyards in Govan and Mackie & Thomson's Govan Old yard. The three neighbouring yards were amalgamated and redeveloped to provide a total of seven building berths, a fitting-out basin and extensive workshops. Harland & Wolff specialised in building tankers and cargo ships at Govan. The yard was eventually closed in 1962, when the company opted to consolidate its operations in Belfast.

The war years

During World War I, Harland and Wolff built monitors and cruisers, including the 15-inch gun armed "large light cruiser" HMS Glorious.

File:Shipbuilding, Liverpool 1944.jpg
A burner operating at night on the deck of a ship at Harland and Wolff's Liverpool yard. (27 October 1944)

In 1918, the company opened a new shipyard on the eastern side of the Musgrave Channel which was named the East Yard. This yard specialised in mass-produced ships of standard design developed during the First World War.

The company started an aircraft manufacturing subsidiary with Short Brothers, called Short and Harland Limited in 1936. Its first order was for 189 Handley Page Hereford bombers built under license from Handley Page for the Royal Air Force. During the Second World War, this factory built Short Stirling bombers as the Hereford was removed from service.

The shipyard was busy during World War II, building 6 aircraft carriers, 2 cruisers (including HMS Belfast) and 131 other naval ships; and repairing over 22,000 vessels. It also manufactured tanks and artillery components. It was during this period that the company's workforce peaked at around 35,000 people. However, many of the vessels built during this era were commissioned right at the end of World War II, as Harland and Wolff were focused on ship repair during the first three years of the war. The yard on Queen's Island was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe in April and May 1941 causing considerable damage to the shipbuilding facilities and destroying the aircraft factory.

Post-war period and decline

With the rise of the jet powered airliner in the late 1950s, the demand for ocean liners declined. This, coupled with competition from Japan, led to difficulties for the British shipbuilding industry. The last liner that the company launched was the MV Arlanza for Royal Mail Line in 1960, whilst the last liner completed was the SS Canberra for P&O in 1961.

In the 1960s, notable achievements for the yard included the tanker Myrina which was the first supertanker built in the UK, and the largest vessel ever launched down a slipway (September 1967). In the same period the yard also built the semisubmersible drilling rig Sea Quest which, due to its three-legged design, was launched down three parallel slipways. This was a first and only time this was ever done.

In the mid-1960s, the British government started advancing loans and subsidies to British shipyards to preserve jobs. Some of this money was used to finance the modernisation of the yard, allowing it to build the much larger post-war merchant ships including one of 333,000 tonnes. However continuing problems led to the company's nationalisation as part of British Shipbuilders in 1977.

The company was bought from the British government in 1989 in a management/employee buy-out in partnership with the Norwegian shipping magnate Fred Olsen; leading to a new company called Harland and Wolff Holdings Plc. By this time, the number of people employed by the company had fallen to around 3000.

For the next few years, Harland and Wolff specialised in building standard Suezmax oil tankers, and has continued to concentrate on vessels for the offshore oil and gas industry. It has made some forays outside of this market. The company bid unsuccessfully tendered against Chantiers de l'Atlantique for the construction of Cunard line's new Queen Mary 2[1].

In the late 1990s, the yard was part of the then British Aerospace's team for the Royal Navy's Future Carrier (CVF) programme. It was envisaged that the ship would be constructed in Belfast. In 1999 BAe merged with Marconi Electronic Systems. The new company, BAE Systems Marine, now owns the former Marconi shipyards at Barrow and on the Clyde and will likely construct the ships at one of these.


File:H&W Cranes2.jpg
The Samson and Goliath gantry cranes have become city landmarks.

Faced with competitive pressures (especially as regards shipbuilding), Harland and Wolff sought to shift and broaden their portfolio, focusing less on shipbuilding and more on design and structural engineering, as well as ship repair, offshore construction projects and competing for other projects to do with metal engineering and construction. This led to Harland and Wolff constructing a series of bridges in Britain and also in the Republic of Ireland, building on the success of its first foray into the civil engineering sector with the construction of the Foyle Bridge and others such as the restoration of Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge.

Harland and Wolff's last shipbuilding project (to date) was the MV Anvil Point, one of six near identical Point class sealift ships built for use by the Ministry of Defence. The ship, built under sub-contract from German shipbuilders Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft, was launched in 2003.

Belfast's skyline is still dominated today by Harland and Wolff's famous twin Gantry cranes, Samson and Goliath, built in 1974 and 1969 respectively. There is also speculation about a resurgence in the prosperity of the shipyard thanks to the company's diversification into emerging technologies, particularly in renewable energy development, such as offshore wind turbine and tidal power construction, which may provide an opportunity to further improve the company's fortunes in the long term. For example, the United Kingdom planned to build 7,500 new offshore wind turbines between 2008 and 2020,[2] creating great demand for heavy assembly work. Unlike land-based wind turbines, where assembly occurs on site, offshore wind turbines have part of their assembly done in a shipyard, and then construction barges transport the tower sections, rotors, and nacelles to the site for final erection and assembly.

In recent years the company has indeed seen its ship-related workload increase slightly. Whilst Harland & Wolff has no involvement in any shipbuilding projects for the foreseeable future, the company is increasingly involved in overhaul, re-fitting and ship repair, as well as the construction and repair of off-shore equipment such as oil platforms. In late 2007, the 'Goliath' gantry crane was re-commissioned, having been moth-balled in 2003 due to the lack of heavy-lifting work at the yard.

In March 2008, the construction of the world's first commercial tidal stream turbine, for Marine Current Turbines, was completed at the Belfast yard. The installation of the 1.2MW SeaGen Tidal System was begun in Strangford Lough in April 2008. [3].

In June 2008, assembly work at the Belfast yard was underway on 60 Vestas V90-3MW wind turbines for the Robin Rigg Wind Farm.[4] This was the second offshore wind farm assembled by the company for Vestas.

List of ships built

SS Venetian - the first steamer built by Harland & Wolff 1860 - a plaque on the William James Pirrie monument, grounds of Belfast City Hall.

Ships built by Harland and Wolff include: [5][6]

  • SS Venetian, completed 1860 for Bibby Line
  • RMS Oceanic, launched on 27 August 1870, maiden voyage 2 March 1871. The White Star Line's first liner. H+W also built 88 other ships for White Star
  • SS Adriatic, launched on 17 October 1871, maiden voyage 11 April 1872
  • SS Celtic, launched on 18 June 1872, maiden voyage 24 October 1872
  • SS British Crown, launched 1879; maiden voyage October 15, 1879; renamed Amsterdam 1887;
  • SS British Queen, launched 1880; maiden voyage January 31, 1881; renamed Onega 1915; sunk August 13, 1918 by torpedo
  • SS Germanic, launched 1874, scrapped 1950
  • SS Coptic, launched on 10 August 1881, maiden voyage 16 November 1881
  • SS Doric, launched 1883, 1906 renamed Asia
  • SS Ionic, launched 1884, scrapped 1908
  • SS Gaika, launched 1897, scrapped 1929 Savona, Italy
  • SS Majestic launched 1889, scrapped 1914
  • SS Michigan, Launched on April 19, 1890; Maiden Voyage on June 24, 1890; Renamed the Kilpatrick, Acropolis, Washington, Great Canton; Scrapped in Italy, 1924.
  • TSS Nieuw Amsterdam, Launched September 28, 1905; Maiden Voyage April 7, 1906; Scrapped in Japan February 1932.
  • SS Mississippi, Launched on August 29, 1890; Maiden Voyage on October 28, 1890; Renamed the Buford; Scrapped in Japan, 1929.
  • SS Massachusetts, Launched on December 17, 1891; Maiden Voyage on April 24, 1892; Renamed the Sheridan; Scrapped in October 1923.
  • SS Manitoba, Launched on January 7, 1892; Maiden Voyage on April 15, 1892; Renamed the Logan, Candler; Scrapped in 1926.
  • SS Mohawk, Launched in 1892; Maiden Voyage on April 1892; Renamed the Grant, Chinouk; Scrapped in 1946.
  • SS Mobile, Launched on January 20, 1893; Renamed the Sherman, Calawaii; Scrapped in Japan in 1933.
  • SS Gothic, maiden voyage 28 December 1893, scrapped 1926
  • SS Minnewaska, Launched in 1894; Previously named the Persia, renamed the Thomas; Scrapped in 1929.
  • SS Canada, launched on 14 May 1896, maiden voyage 1 October 1896
  • SS Cymric, launched 1898, sunk April 13, 1916
  • SS New England, launched April 7, 1898, maiden voyage June 30, 1898, renamed Romanic November 1913, scrapped 1922
  • RMS Oceanic, launched on 14 January 1899
  • SS Commonwealth, launched on 31 May 1900, maiden voyage 4 October 1900. Became Canopic (1904)
  • SS Minnehaha, Launched on March 31, 1900; Maiden Voyage on July 7, 1900; Torpedoed and sunk by U-Boat U 48 on September 7, 1917.
  • SS Celtic, launched on 4 April 1901, maiden voyage 26 July 1901. Wrecked 10 December 1928, Roche's Pt, Cobh, Eire
  • RMS Walmer Castle, launched on 6 July 1901
  • SS Athenic, launched on 17 August 1901, maiden voyage 13 February 1902
  • SS Cedric, launched on 21 August 1902, maiden voyage 11 February 1903
  • WSL Corinthic launched 1902, scrapped 1932
  • RMS Kenilworth Castle, launched on 15 December 1903, completed May 1904
  • SS Mamari, maiden voyage 15 December 1904
  • RMS Aragon, launched on 23 February 1905, maiden voyage 14 July 1905
  • USS Republic, launched in 1907
  • SS Megantic, launched 1908, scrapped in Japan 1923
  • RMS Laurentic, launched 1908, sunk by mines January 1917
  • RMS Edinburgh Castle, launched on 27 January 1910, completed 28 April 1910, maiden voyage May 1910
  • SS Pakeha, launched on 26 May 1910, completed 20 August 1910
  • RMS Olympic, launched 20 October 1910, maiden voyage 14 June 1911
  • RMS Titanic, Olympic class launched on 31 May 1911, maiden voyage 10 April 1912
  • SS Zealandic, launched on 29 June 1911, maiden voyage 30 October 1911, sunk 1942
  • RMS Arlanza, launched 23 November 1911, completed September 1912
  • SS Ceramic, launched on 11 December 1912, completed 5 July 1913
  • SS Pittsburgh, launched 1913, entered service 1922, renamed Pennland, sunk 1942
  • SS Katoomba, launched on 10 April 1913. Later Columbia. Sold to Japanese breakers 22 August, 1959
  • HMHS Britannic, Improved Olympic class launched on 26 February 1914, in service 23 December 1915. War loss
  • SS Justicia, launched on 9 July 1914 as SS Statendam, completed April 1917
  • RMT Almanzora, launched on 19 November 1914, completed September 1915
  • SS Ceric, launched January 1914, completed 1917 as Belgic IV
  • RMS Regina, launched 1917, entered passenger service 1919, renamed Westerland, scrapped 1947
  • SS Venusia, in service 1918 ) sister-ships; first freighters ordered from H+W by Cunard Line
  • SS Varentia, in service 1918 )
  • RMMV Arundel Castle, launched on 11 September 1919
  • SS Doric, launched 1922, scrapped November 1935
  • RMS Mooltan, launched on 15 February 1923
  • RMS Maloja, launched on 19 April 1923
  • SS Minnewaska, maiden voyage 1 September 1923
  • RMMV Asturias, launched on 7 July 1925, completed 21 February 1926
  • RMMV Carnarvon Castle, launched on 14 January 1926, maiden voyage 16 July 1926
  • RMMV Llangibby Castle, launched on 4th July 1929, maiden voyage 5 December 1929
  • RMMV Winchester Castle, launched on 19 November 1929, maiden voyage 24 October 1930
  • MS Achimota launched on 17 December 1929, delivered 29 November 1932 as TSMV Wanganella
  • RMMV Warwick Castle, launched on 29 April 1930, maiden voyage 30 January 1931
  • RMS Georgic, launched 1931, maiden voyage June 25, 1932, scrapped 1961
  • MV Highland Patriot, completed 1932. War loss 1st October 1940 en route Buenos Aires to Glasgow
  • MV Waipawa, completed October 1934
  • MV Wairangi, completed February 1935
  • RMMV Stirling Castle, launched on 15 July 1935, maiden voyage 7 February 1936
  • RMMV Athlone Castle, launched on 28 November 1935, maiden voyage 22 May 1936
  • RMMV Dunnottar Castle, launched on 25 January 1936, maiden voyage 10 July 1936
  • RMMV Dunvegan Castle, launched on 26 March 1936
  • MV Walmer Castle, launched on 17 September 1936, completed 30 November 1936
  • RMMV Cape Town Castle, launched on 23 September 1937, completed 31 March 1938
  • RMMV Durban Castle, launched on 14 June 1938
  • RMS Andes, launched on 7 March 1939, completed September 1939
  • RMMV Pretoria Castle, launched on 12 October 1939 (later HMS Pretoria Castle then RMMV Warwick Castle)
  • RFA Black Ranger, completed 1940
  • RFA Brown Ranger, completed 1940
  • MV Empire Grace, launched on 25 August 1941, completed April 1942
  • Template:INS launched on 12 November, 1943
  • MV Empire Abercorn, launched on 30 December 1944
  • MV Durango, completed in 1944
  • MV Waiwera, completed in 1944
  • SS Athenic, launched on 26 November 1946, maiden voyage 1 August 1947
  • RMS Pretoria Castle, launched on 19 August 1947 (later SS S.A. Oranje)
  • RMS Edinburgh Castle, launched on 16 October 1947
  • RMS Parthia, maiden voyage 10 April 1948. First passenger/cargo liner ordered from H+W by Cunard Line
  • RMS Magdelena, delivered 1949. Ran aground 25th April 1949 on maiden voyage near Rio de Janeiro and wrecked
  • MV Bloemfontein Castle, launched on 24 August 1949
  • SS Rhodesia Castle, launched on 5 April 1951, completed 6 October 1951
  • SS Kenya Castle, launched on 21 June 1951
  • SS Braemar Castle, launched on 5 April 1952
  • MV Cedric, delivered November 1952
  • MV Cretic, completed in 1953
  • SS Iberia, launched on 21 January 1954, maiden voyage 28 September 1954
  • SS Loch Gowan, completed in 1954
  • SS Southern Cross, launched on 17 August 1954, delivered 23 February 1955
  • SS Reina Del Mar, launched on 7 June 1955, delivered April 1956, maiden voyage 3 May 1956
  • SS Loch Loyal, completed in 1957
  • RMS Pendennis Castle, launched on 24 December 1957, maiden voyage 1 January 1959
  • RMMV Amazon, launched July 1959, maiden voyage January 1960
  • RMMV Aragon, launched on 20 October 1959, maiden voyage 29 April 1960
  • SS Canberra, launched on 16 March 1960, maiden voyage 6 June 1961
  • RMMV Arlanza, launched on 13 April 1960, maiden voyage 7 October 1960
  • Oil tankers
    • British Destiny, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1937
    • British Fidelity, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1938
    • British Integrity, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1937
    • British Merit, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1942
    • British Might, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1945
    • British Patience, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1943
    • British Power, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1936
    • British Security, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1937
    • British Trust, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1939
    • British Vigilance, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, 1942

See also Category:Belfast-built ships


The archives relating to the Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries are maintained by the Archives of the University of Glasgow (GUAS).

SS Rohilla The Rohilla was completed 1906, lost off Whitby in 1914


External links

Coordinates: 54°36′29″N 5°54′03″W / 54.6080°N 5.9008°W / 54.6080; -5.9008

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