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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 22:34 GMT
Shipyard's future hangs in balance
Harland and Wolff
The shipyard has been in decline for many years
A recovery plan put forward by struggling Belfast shipyard Harland and Wolff has been branded not viable, it is understood.

The firm - owned by the Norwegian company Olsen Energy - has been unable to secure enough shipbuilding work, and a lack of money to keep the business going during continuing hard times means it is threatened with closure.

On Friday it announced that it was to lay off another 140 staff following a raft of redundancies over the last few years.

Harlands' management had placed their hopes of stopping the business closing altogether on a restructuring plan.

Sir Reg Empey is considering company's options
Sir Reg Empey is considering company's options

But the plan would need the support of Economy Minister Sir Reg Empey and Regional Development Minister Peter Robinson to go ahead - partly because the company plans to raise money by selling off some its land.

Sir Reg called in consultants to examine the Harlands the plan.

And on Friday evening it emerged that the consultants had reported back that the plan was not good enough to make a proper judgement, but based on what they had seen it was not viable.

The door has not been completely closed on Harlands, however.

If finance can be found to keep the firm going to allow time for the plan to be improved, the yard could still have a future.

The staff laid off on Friday were 100 employees with steelwork trades and 44 other workers.

Harlands' management has been preparing to issue redundancy warning notices to the yard's remaining workers in case the recovery plan is not accepted.

Olsen Energy has been increasingly focusing on the opportunity to make money by making its land in Belfast available for development for other uses.

There are plans for the area around Harlands to be developed as a new commercial and entertainment sector called the Titanic Quarter, after the infamous liner built at Harlands.

BBC NI business editor James Kerr reports:
"This is a critical time for Harland and Wolff"
See also:

22 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Lay-offs herald fears for shipyard
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