Harland & Wolff Makes Turnaround With Cruise and Ferry Refits

File image of the Belfast shipyard courtesy Harland & Wolff

Published Jul 2, 2020 6:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

The storied shipbuilder Harland & Wolff, which emerged from bankruptcy with new owners just last year, has experienced a resurgence in activity with repair work for the European cruise and ferry sectors.

Natural gas infrastructure firm InfraStrata bought Harland & Wolff out of administration last December with the intention of using the yard for its own fabrication and staging needs, along with the shipbuilder's traditional line of business. The firm soon announced plans to relaunch service for the cruise and ferry sector, noting that Harland & Wolff is the sole remaining provider in the UK after the closure of Southampton's King George V dock. 

“We are delighted to be re-establishing the Harland & Wolff brand within the cruise sector. Our two facilities in Belfast are now fully open for business. A key sector that we are actively pursuing is that of cruise vessels which we believe will make optimum use of our expansive facilities," said CEO John Wood in March 2020. 

On Thursday, Stena Line said that it has booked $3.1 million worth of repair and refit work at Harland & Wolff for six of its vessels. Stena Line has been doing business with the yard for 40 years, and in a statement, the firm said that that relationship continues despite the pandemic.

“Despite the dramatic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our business, regular ship upgrades and maintenance works are a very important element in our ship management operation," said Stena Line trade director Paul Grant in a statement. “They help us to maintain our excellent reliability record and keep our Irish Sea fleet to the forefront of the ferry sector.”

Harland & Wolff has served four Stena vessels already since the yard's acquisition in December, and Stena Europe is currently at the yard's dock in Belfast. 

Three vessels belonging to Viking Cruises - the Viking Sky, Viking Sun and Viking Sea - are also undergoing a refit at Harland & Wolff, according to the Belfast Telegraph, marking a major turnaround for a shipyard that nearly closed just last year.

n its heyday, Harland & Wolff was an important part of Great Britain's industrial base. It built most of the White Star Line's iconic ocean liners, including the Titanic, Olympic and Britannic, and it was a major contributor to the wartime shipbuilding effort in WWII. However, its fortunes waned in the decades that followed. With newbuilding orders increasingly going to yards overseas, in recent years the yard has refocused instead on repairs, refits and offshore structure fabrication.