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‘Potential bidders’ for Harland & Wolff come forward

In the early 20th century the shipyard became one of the biggest ship builders in the world and was Belfast's biggest employer. Credit: Pacemaker

The administrators of Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast have said a number of potential bidders for the troubled business have come forward.

BDO Northern Ireland said it had agreed to a "temporary" unpaid lay-off of the workforce for a one-week period to enable those potential commercial opportunities to be explored.

The administrators said a small number of the workforce had taken up the option of redundancy.

Harland & Wolff, famed for building the Titanic, officially entered administration on Monday, putting almost 130 jobs at risk.

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A spokesman for BDO NI said: "In light of insufficient funds to cover the current running costs of the business, and in the absence of any other funds being available at this point, in conjunction with unions, the administrators have agreed to facilitate an unpaid temporary lay-off until Friday 16 August."

The statement continued: "This provides a limited additional time for all parties to pursue any potential opportunity to find a commercial basis to continue the business as a going concern.

"For a small number of workers, the option of redundancy has been provided and taken up.

"A limited core team of workers has also been retained to maintain the site and facilitate the administrators in carrying out their duties."

Many of the workers have been holding a protest at the gates of the east Belfast site for the past week, joined by trade union representatives.

A number of interested parties/potential bidders have come forward since our appointment and we are expediently following up on these inquiries in an effort to seek a viable commercial solution.

– BDO statement

Unions want the shipyard to be nationalised, however the government has insisted that the ongoing crisis is a 'commercial issue'.

The company was founded in 1862, by Edward James Harland and Gustav Wilhelm Wolff.

At its height in the early 20th century, the shipyard became one of the biggest ship builders in the world and was Belfast's biggest employer.

The shipbuilder - whose famous yellow cranes, Samson and Goliath, dominate the Belfast skyline - employed more than 30,000 people during the city's industrial heyday, but the current workforce only numbers around 125.

It has diversified away from shipbuilding in the last two decades and until recently had primarily worked on wind energy and marine engineering projects.

Fuelled by donations and support from the public, workers have occupied the site round the clock for almost two weeks. Credit: Pacemaker