Harland & Wolff administrators allow extra time for rescue package

Workers from Harland & Wolff have retained control of the site after it went into administration earlier this month. Picture by Mal McCann

THE administrators of Harland & Wolff have allowed extra time to find a possible rescue package for the shipyard.

Accountancy firm BDO said they have held "positive discussions" with prospective buyers for the iconic yard and hope that offers for the business will follow.

The firm took control of the shipyard after it went into administration earlier this month.

It announced yesterday it would continue a temporary unpaid lay-off of the workforce to facilitate the ongoing discussions.

Although the workers are no longer getting paid, their contracts of employment remain unbroken.

That lay-off arrangement had been due to end yesterday. Trade unions had indicated that buyers had until midday yesterday to provide bids for the business.

However, BDO said it was continuing to speak to potential buyers interested in purchasing the business as a going concern.

It said it hoped that continued discussions will lead to "credible offers" for the iconic yard.

"In light of this, the administrators, in tandem with the unions and workforce, are intending to continue the unpaid temporary lay-off initiated on our appointment beyond today," it said in a statement.

"The limited retained team of workers are continuing to maintain the site and assist the administrators in carrying out their duties."

Unions have previously called for the shipyard to be renationalised to protect the 120-strong workforce.

Workers took control of the site several weeks ago and have been holding a 24-hour protest against the potential closure of the yard.

Known for building the Titanic, Harland & Wolff's yellow cranes Samson and Goliath continue to dominate the Belfast skyline.

At its height, the shipbuilder employed more than 30,000 people.

In recent decades, the business has mainly worked on wind energy and marine engineering projects.

The British government has been urged to follow the lead of the Scottish government, which has nationalised the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Glasgow in a bid to save the business.

However, the British government has previously said that the crisis at Harland & Wolff is "ultimately a commercial issue".

East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson said he will meet BDO on Monday, along with his party leader Arlene Foster.

"I recognise the importance of Harland & Wolff to the people of east Belfast and to Northern Ireland as a whole," he said.

"We are facing a very difficult situation without any 'magic wand' solution but we must continue to explore all options.

"This work is more important than any grandstanding or rhetoric which doesn't have substance behind it.

"Such an approach does not actually help secure a future for the shipyard, or more importantly for the workforce facing such an uncertain future."

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