Posted on Thursday 14 November 2013 by Ulster Business

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The Harland and Wolff ship yard is bracing itself for the arrival of 600 additional workers to as it prepares to accommodate one of the tallest ever structures to visit Belfast, the Blackford Dolphin offshore exploration and drill platform.

The 360ft high platform, due in H&W toward the end of the month, is too big to fit beneath the Samson and Goliath cranes which will have to be moved along their tracks to the city end of the building dock for the 60-days duration of the refurbishment contract.

Of the 600 temporary workers, who will compliment the current total of over 600 people on site, about 200 will be hired from the local labour pool, while a further 200 will be drawn from Scotland and the north east of England, and the rest from European countries such as Poland and Lithuania. There are not enough skilled steelworkers and welders left in Northern Ireland to fill the full complement following the decline of the ship building industry.

David McVeigh (pictureD), head of sales and marketing at Harland and Wolff, said it had to compete against numerous well establish international competitors for the project, which is worth "tens of millions of pounds" to the company.

"The complexity of the project demanded the close co-operation between the H&W project team, the client and the major sub-contractors in a pre-arrival engineering phase. The project will require not only the resources of H&W, but also of our strong local and national supply chain," he said.

"H&W have been investing heavily in new facilities, plant, equipment and training to ensure we have the right tools for not only this job, but the others to come."

Aberdeen based Dolphin Drilling Ltd awarded Harland and Wolff the contract for the dry docking of the Blackford Dolphin earlier this year. The Aker H-3 propulsion assisted semi-submersible rig underwent a major deep-water upgrade in 2006 to 2008.

At that time, Harland and Wolff designed and built the new 130 man accommodation blocks, power generation module, mud room and additional buoyancy for the conversion.

The rig was demobilized in Brazil, before travelling to Belfast to undergo class renewal and some upgrade and maintenance work, before being remobilized for its next drilling contract in the North Sea.

It is set to arrive in Belfast Port at the end of November and brought into Harland & Wolff's dock when the tides are right, probably in early December.

Graeme Murray, Dolphin Drilling Managing Director said: "We are pleased to have entered into this agreement with Harland and Wolff. I am confident that both the H&W and Dolphin project teams will leverage on the close cooperation and strong teamwork to achieve the timely completion of the project while meeting the stringent standards of quality, safety and reliability."

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