The iconic Belfast shipyard Harland and Wolff, which built the Titanic, went into administration on Monday as its workers vowed to continue a week-long occupation of the site.
The company is set to file for insolvency on Tuesday at the High Court in Belfast, with accountancy firm BDO appointed administrators, according to reports.
The moves come after Dolphin Drilling, the Norwegian parent of Harland and Wolff which filed for bankruptcy in June, failed to find a buyer for the giant of Northern Ireland’s industrial past.
The shipbuilder, whose huge yellow cranes have towered over the Belfast skyline for decades, employed more than 30,000 people in the early 20th century but now has only 130 workers.
A group of them protesting at the shipyard every day for the past week voted Monday to continue their occupation of the site, calling on the government to intervene.
They emerged from a meeting chanting “save our shipyard” before confirming the outcome of the vote.
“The workforce have told us they wish to continue with the occupation of this plant until such times as we find a way to continue shipbuilding and heavy industry in Belfast,” Joe Passmore, a steel worker and union representative, said.
John McDonnell, finance spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party in Westminster, visited the shipyard site and claimed Prime Minister Boris Johnson had failed the workers in his first real test since taking power last month.
“We know this is a viable concern, we know the government has naval contracts it can put here to ensure the long-term future,” he said.
However, a British government spokesperson said Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith had held stakeholder meetings since taking up the role last month but no “viable” options for the shipyards’ future had emerged.
“He is speaking to partners… on the next steps to help those affected,” the spokesperson added.
As well as building the doomed Titanic, which sank in 1912, Harland and Wolff supplied almost 150 warships during World War II.
It has since moved away from shipbuilding and was until recently working mostly on wind energy and marine engineering projects. – AFP