Workers have locked the gate of Belfast’s iconic Harland & Wolff shipyard in protest and say they will not leave until the threat of imminent closure has been resolved.

A banner bearing the “Save Our Shipyard” message has also been hung from one of the landmark cranes, Samson and Goliath, that dominate the city’s skyline.

The shipyard currently employs around 130 people, specialising in wind and marine engineering.

Founded in 1861, it was the birthplace of the Titanic and remains a symbol of Belfast's rich industrial past.

It’s not good enough for anyone to shrug their shoulders and say we should walk out of here on Wednesday and never return. We are disgusted at the idea of companies sitting out there like vultures waiting for this place to go into insolvency so they can swoop in.

Paul Beattie, Harland & Wolff worker

But now, after nearly 160 years, Harland & Wolff's time in the city could end as early as this week.

Trade unions Unite and GMB say they fully understand the workers’ frustration at what they say is the government’s failure to preserve jobs and skills in Northern Ireland and secure the yard’s future.

Harland & Wolff workers say they cannot just give up on their livelihoods. Credit: Pacemaker

“Workers fighting to preserve Harland and Wolff deserve the support of everyone concerned for the future of jobs and skills in Northern Ireland,” Unite’s Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald said.

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson will this week make his first visit to Northern Ireland as PM, and Unite is again calling on his government to nationalise Harland & Wolff and cooperate with the workers to chart away forward for the yard.”

We never thought we would be put in this position - it was always assumed that the management and politicians would come up with a plan, but so far they’ve failed. But we aren’t prepared to see this place fail when we know it can be viable and vibrant.

Joe Passmore, Harland & Wolff worker

GMB Regional Organiser Michael Mulholland pointed out that the Scottish government is drawing up plans to nationalise the Ferguson shipyard on the Clyde.

“Shipyards such as Harland & Wolff or Ferguson are vital to any country’s commercial and defence infrastructure,” he said.

“However, it seems Mr Johnson has yet to realise this and is prepared to allow Harland and Wolff to sink by default.

“The protest by workers today is an indication of their determination not to allow this to happen.”

A "Save Our Yard" banner on one of the landmark H&W cranes. Credit: UTV