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British Shipbuilding - Not Quite Dead

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

Harland and Wolff Shipyard Belfast

Harland and Wolff shipyard famous for building the Titanic was brought out of administration in 2019 and has just clinched its first new building order. Not quite an ocean-going liner this time. In fact, it is to build 11 new barges for the Cory group in a contract worth £8.50 million.

The barges will ply the river Thames with recyclable and non-recyclable waste. Four barges at a time will be built with the entire build program ending in mid-2023.

The shipyard also said it had bought the former HMS Atherstone mine-hunting vessel from the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD). Launched in 1986 and commissioned in early 1987, the minehunter ceased service on December 31, 2017. The plan is to refurbish it for non-military uses.

HMS Atherstone

Cunard Queen Victoria

In April Cunard’s Queen Victoria arrived at H&W for dry docking. Queen Victoria is the largest cruise ship to dry-dock in a UK shipyard. The ship is now back cruising the Mediterranean.

P&O Aurora was due to arrive in Belfast this week for dry docking. Carnival Cruises own both ships.

David Varty, Carnival UK vice-president for maritime, added: "We are delighted to be able to have these two ships at a UK shipyard with such a long heritage and reputation and we very much look forward to supporting the UK maritime industry and working closely with the Harland & Wolff team on this project."

Titanic Museum - Belfast

No trip to Belfast would be complete without a visit to The Titanic Quarter. The

Titanic Quarter is one of Europe’s largest urban waterfront regeneration projects.

In just over a decade Titanic Quarter has gone from a master plan to reality as a thriving and bustling destination. Over £618 million has already been invested and some 20,000 people Live, Work, Visit and Stay in Titanic Quarter on Belfast’s Maritime Mile daily, which is now attracting over 3.5 million visitors every year.

It is home to the Titanic Museum Belfast which overlooks the graving docks and slipways once used for the building of the Titanic and Olympic. Following the decline in the British shipbuilding industry, the site became derelict and most of the buildings were knocked down, however, the slipways and the Iconic Samson & Goliath cranes got listed status and now feature in the new Titanic Quarter, where the Titanic Museum phoenix-like rose from the ashes.

At the same height as the Titanic ship, the four corners of the Titanic Belfast building represent the Titanic’s bow. Striking into the sky, insinuating an exciting experience of the famous ocean liner. The design can be seen from another perspective; it represents the iceberg with which the Titanic collided.

In 2020 Titanic Belfast was generating £1 million every week from international visitors.

I visited in September 2021 and was fascinated by the whole interactive experience. A must for every visitor to Belfast.

At one time British shipbuilding dominated the world. As late as the 1950s, a quarter of all ships sailing the seven seas were built in Britain. Now, seventy years later, that figure is less than 1%.

The decline in the British Shipbuilding industry was demonstrated when the QE2 needed new boilers and turbines. QE2’s boilers and turbines had always been troublesome, with problems having developed during her sea trials. These issues plagued the ship in the early 1980s and resulted in the cancellation of cruises which threatened to damage QE2’s reputation.

To address this issue once and for all, Cunard decided to re-engine the ship with a diesel-electric power plant. This work was put to tender and not one British Shipyard would tender for the project. Instead, the work went to the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany. The work was expected to save Cunard £12 million a year in fuel, and critically would ensure QE2 remained reliable for the remainder of her career.

The QE2 went to Germany for new engines.

In this film clip Sir Charles Wheeler CMG, incidentally Boris Johnson’s former father-in-law examines the decline in the British Shipping industry when the work on the QE2 went to Germany because the British Ship Building Industry were unable or unwilling to take on the contract.

Sir Charles Wheeler CMG

Veteran BBC foreign correspondent

1923 - 2008

With thanks to fellow Seadog Paul Trangmer for help with this blog.


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2 comentarios

John Cochrane
John Cochrane
13 jun 2022

barges, you can't call that shipbuilding

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Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
13 jun 2022
Contestando a

Agree John. But at least the shipyard is still open for repairs.

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