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EDITIONS
 Friday, 17 January, 2003, 13:34 GMT
'End of an era' at Belfast shipyard
The Anvil Point at Harland and Wolff shipyard
The Anvil Point could be the last Belfast built ship
What is likely to be the last ship built by the Harland and Wolff yard has been officially named at a ceremony in Belfast.

The Anvil Point is due to be completed in a few weeks.

When it leaves the yard, all but 130 of the workforce will be made redundant.

Bill Alexander
It marks a new chapter in the company's history as we adapt to new markets and reposition ourselves

Bill Alexander
Chief Executive
Senior shop steward Drew Kane said it was an end of an era at the yard.

"When I started here there was 24,000 and we're down to a handful now. It's like a dead city down here now where it used to be a teeming city.

"You get the impression from the men that it would be a relief to be over because it's been hanging over them for the last couple of years," he said.

"As much as a person wants a job, they will have a certain amount of relief knowing that they're finally going out of it and maybe looking forward to something that will last a bit longer than what this place will."

'Mixed emotion'

The company's chief executive, Bill Alexander, said the business did have a future in engineering but it was unlikely to involve building ships.

"Today is full of mixed emotion for all of us as it is likely to be the last new-build ship delivered from Harland and Wolff in the immediate future," he said.

"It marks a new chapter in the company's history as we adapt to new markets and reposition ourselves as a successful engineering services company."

Last October, the company announced 265 job losses which will take effect at the end of this month.

Harland and Wolff said that while it was pursuing future business opportunities on a number of fronts in order to create a competitive company with a sustainable future, it had been "unable to secure sufficient firm workload to maintain current employment levels".

The shipyard said it would focus on "an expansion of its technical consultancy services, which encompass the marine, offshore and structural engineering sectors".

The remaining 121-strong workforce is a far cry from the yard that built the famed Titanic liner and had 35,000 employees on its books.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  BBC NI's business editor James Kerr:
"Management insist there is a future for the business"
Shipyard graphic

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