The company that built the Titanic at Belfast Shipyard , Harland and Wolff, is reportedly expected to file for insolvency after 158 years of trading. Despite being put on sale last December as an attempt to save the company, however no buyer was found for the declining shipyard.
Why is the company under threat of insolvency?
Harland and Wolff was first put up for sale during December 2018 following a period of long term decline since the 1960s however have struggled to find a buyer with the company sharing in June that it was still continuing its sales process. The company’s rising pension deficit is seen as the main reason for the struggle to sell the company with the most recent accounts published for the year ending December 2016 show that its defined pension benefit scheme had “2,633 pensioner and deferred members”.
The Northern Irish Shipyard was once Belfast’s biggest employers with a workforce of 35,000 at its peak in the 1920s, however now only employs 123 permanent employees. The company first started its long period of decline in the 1960s and followed further declination following the 2014 oil price crash triggering the Hardland and Wolff to go into further decline with a loss of £5.8 million compared to a gain of £1.1 million the previous year. In addition to this, the company stated that “The valuation carried out by the actuary at 31 December 2016 indicated a deficit of £38.1m compared to a deficit of £31.3m at 31 December 2015.”
Who is the administrator?
The accountancy group, BDO, has been appointed as the administrator stating that it would file for insolvency next Tuesday in a Belfast court. Furthermore, BDO is also presumed to file for a court injunction to gain access to the site.
Unions have repeatedly said that they want the shipyard to be nationalised however the government have repeatedly stated that the crisis is a “commercial issue”. Assistant general sectary of the Irish Congress of Trades Union, Owen Reidy expressed that there had been “substantial political support” from Belfast City Council and the UK Labour party, but that the support had “not been matched by the new UK government”.
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