Led by new owners InfraStrata, Harland & Wolff is lining up cruise ship drydocks for its two large docks in Belfast. A trio of Viking ships were among customers in 2020.
“It was part of a strategic acquisition,” said John Wood, CEO, InfraStrata. “There are no drydock facilities in the UK for cruise vessels. We have two docks, 556 meters and 335 meters, and they are ideally located for cruise ships in Belfast.”
he new owners have been busy investing in the facility, spending money on new dock gates, power lines and robotic welding equipment as well as other upgrades.
The 85-acre facility is also growing. When the new owners came aboard, there were 65 employees, which has grown to over 200, and a new office is being set up in Miami to better liaison with cruise customers, said Wood.
“We expect (this year) to be busy with cruise ships. Everyone has been out of service for the past nine months. We see the classification dockings ramping up as the ships come back into service,” Wood continued, saying he expects demand to increase in the first and second quarters as the industry stages a staggered return to service.
What will be a huge boost for the cruise industry will be export credit financing on refurbishment projects, Wood said.
“We have worked closely with the UK government and put a couple schemes together. It’s something the UK government wants to do, is to encourage cruise work, and we’ve got two of the biggest docks in Europe and intend to make Belfast one of the cruise refit centers.”
Plans eventually call for deepening the facility’s 556-meter dock, and so far, cruise customer have been happy to hear about export credit options, meaning they can pay for projects later.
“We’ve seen a real shift in the past six weeks. We’ve gone from cruise lines saying ‘Yeah we’ll look at March or April’ to ‘We’d like to dock between these dates and here are our specifications.’”
hat has been based on a mix of an expected return to revenue service and export credit financing.
Wood has also gotten creative, hoping to deliver his customers better value for their refurbishment budgets.
“We are looking at docking three vessels in our big dock at once. This will drastically reduce the cost of the drydock for the owners and bring in the OEMs at the same time (for three ships),” he explained. “There is big cost savings there. We’re also working up another proposal around that concept of having two large vessels side-by-side in one dock.”