Demolition works at the iconic Belfast Harland & Wolff shipyard have begun marking the start of a journey to becoming the UK’s most technologically advanced shipyard. Following the award of the manufacturing subcontract with Navantia in relation to the £1.6 billion FSS warship programme, Harland & Wolff confirmed it would see the £77 million invested in technology in its Belfast and Appledore shipyards. Works have commenced as it prepares to deliver on the contract win in 2023. An extension to the fabrication halls will be undertaken to facilitate a highly dynamic material and sub-structure production flow along with a highly efficient manufacturing and production process. Investments will be made in technologically advanced robotic and autonomous equipment that includes material movement, marking, plate cutting, panel lines and robotic welding. In addition, new larger paint buildings will be constructed to facilitate larger and more efficient block painting.
This subcontract will be a significant and historic step change to Harland and Wolff’s capabilities and will make it an important participant in the international shipbuilding industry. Specifically, with modern shipyards and a proven track record post FSS. The FSS Warship programme will last seven years and bring long term employment and opportunities until 2031. Harland & Wolff will be responsible for the fabrication of various blocks including some mega blocks (i.e., a block incorporating several standard sized blocks) as well as the procurement of a number of items of equipment to be installed on each vessel in Belfast. Following the planned investments and upgrades to its sites, Harland & Wolff will be able to capitalise on further multi-billion-pound fabrication and heavy engineering opportunities within the defence, renewables and commercial maritime markets globally. The business will target a significant number of floating offshore wind projects for which fabrication is expected to commence between 2024 and 2030.
Given the experience its Appledore shipyard has in the fabrication of the bow sections for the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales, all three bow sections for this programme will be fabricated in Appledore prior to being transported to Belfast. All three vessels will have all the blocks assembled, consolidated, fully integrated and commissioned before proceeding to sea trials from the Belfast facility, marking a return to shipbuilding in Belfast after over twenty years. Full scale fabrication is due to commence in 2025 with the vessels due to be delivered to meet the Ministry Of Defence’s objective to bring three ships into service by 2032.