£300 m order keeps Harland and Wolff afloat

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The troubled Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast has been saved by a £300 million contract to build four passenger ferries for seamasters.

The famous dockyard had been indanger of closing since it failed to secure the £450 million contract to build the new Queen Mary for Cunard in March.

The entire workforce had been put on 90 day protective notice and the order books were empty.

Although the notice has not been lifted the new contract will secure hundreds of jobs for the period that the wrok is being carried out.

Celebrating the news a company spokesman said: "It provides a substantial workload for a period of time for a significant number of people."

The contract also includes the option to build two more ships which would bring the total value of the deal up to £500 million.

Announcing the contract, Harland and Wolff chief executive Brynjulv Mugaas said: "We are delighted to have secured this contract, based on our capability, capacity and ability to met the delivery requirements of the customer.

"These will be truly innovative vessels, illustrating the capability of Harland and Wolff to undertake the design and construction of sophisticated projects."

He added that the contract provided an opportunity for the shipyard to establish itself as a leader in the building of the latest ships.

The announcement of the new contract came the day after Harland's workforce agreed a new package of terms and conditions including a no-strike deal and a three-year wage freeze.

The deal also agreed a reduction in the workforce from the present 1,300 to 1,000.

narrowly accepted yesterday by the workers it is expected that the core shipbuilding division workforce will be cut from 1,300 to 1,000.