Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Historic British Shipyard Saved from Administration After Trade Union Actions Prove Correct

Landmark Site Still Has Construction Potential
Shipping News Feature

UK – The Belfast-based shipyard best known for building the famously ill-fated Titanic, Harland and Wolff, has been bought by London-based energy firm, Infrastrata from administrator BDO NI for a total consideration of £6 million, saving it from closure after it went into administration in August 2019, following the collapse of its Norwegian parent company, Dolphin Drilling.

The Assets to be acquired by Infrastrata include all plant, machinery, equipment and industrial and intellectual property, as well as 79 personnel who are highly skilled in the business of fabricating equipment for the energy infrastructure industry, enabling InfraStrata to bring in-house a large part of the fabrication requirements for the Company's Islandmagee Gas Storage Project and proposed FSRU (floating storage and re-gasification unit) project. John Wood, CEO of InfraStrata, said:

"Harland and Wolff is a landmark asset and its reputation as one of the finest multi-purpose fabrication facilities in Europe is testament to its highly skilled team in Belfast. This acquisition is a function of deep operational synergies between the various business segments of the Company with Harland and Wolff underpinning the construction economics of the Islandmagee Gas Storage Project and other future projects.

“We are delighted to be able to retain 100% of personnel who did not opt to take voluntary redundancy earlier this year. Our Islandmagee Gas Storage Project will benefit greatly from their expertise in the energy sector, both technically and economically, and we look forward to growing the workforce significantly in the coming years. While our core priority will be to deliver our flagship project in Islandmagee, we believe there are opportunities to welcome potential new clients due to the diverse skill set at the facility.

“This acquisition will clearly provide substantial advantages through vertical integration in addition to demonstrating our commitment to the Northern Irish economy, particularly in the post-Brexit era."

Infrastrata says that the acquisition cost is a substantial discount on the valuation of the Assets of around £11 million. For the year to 31 December 2018, the business carried on by the Assets reported an unaudited loss of £4.868 million. InfraStrata is not acquiring any ongoing revenue or existing contracts or work. A working capital facility will also be established at the subsidiary level, leveraging the Assets and the gas storage project and the Facility's cash flows.

The collapse and the pursuant administration of Harland and Wolff resulted in around 120 jobs put at risk. AS stated of the circa 120 employees, 79 will keep their jobs. The Infrastrata Board plans to significantly increase the size of the workforce by several hundred over the next five years as it progresses the development of its infrastructure projects.

News of the rescue has been warmly welcomed by the NI branch of trade union Unite, with Jackie Pollock, Unite Regional Secretary saying that the dramatic turnaround in the iconic shipyard’s fortunes was due solely to the determination of the workforce who refused to accept the loss of their jobs and skills. The acquisition follows a nine-week occupation of the shipyard by workers, supported by their unions. Pollock commented:

“On July 29th, following a week of speculation and the threat of imminent closure, workers at Harland and Wolff took matters into their own hands and occupied the site. While politicians on all sides threw up their hands, claiming that the shipyard could not be saved and efforts should be focused on securing redundancy payments, the workers stepped up and took control.

“Few commentators believed they would be win, but as trade unionists they had belief in the power of collective action. Now, the Administrator is preparing letters requesting our members return to work this week following the acceptance of bid from Infrastrata which will not only save jobs but lay the foundations for the yard’s expansion.

“This is one of the most significant victories won by trade unions in Northern Ireland, and it is due to the efforts of the workers themselves supported by their unions and officials.