Towering success of oil rig project could mean more work for H&W

The oil rig Blackford Dolphin being tugged up Belfast Lough
The oil rig Blackford Dolphin being tugged up Belfast Lough

The departure of one of the dominant parts of Belfast’s skyline this week has been a “strange but satisfying” event for one businessman.

David McVeigh, sales manager for Harland and Wolff, was speaking after the Blackford Dolphin sailed out of the harbour – and said he is now hopeful that rigs like her will become a more common sight in the city’s drydocks.

The industrial behemoth was taller than either of the firm’s two iconic yellow cranes and her departure means that they are free to move again after about eight months of being locked in place.

The rig was towed out of the harbour on Tuesday afternoon, having been in the city since November.

“Strange to see her going – strange, but satisfying,” said Mr McVeigh.

“I could see it from my house.

“It was there during my working day, and it was there when I got up in the morning. Looking out of your office window, it filled your vision.”

It was odd to look up from his desk and see her gone as she moved off, he said, adding: “It’s great to see her go – she’s going out to do what she’s supposed to. She’s there to be working, not sitting in our dock.”

Although she was a particularly big one, Harland and Wolff is bidding for such projects all the time, he said.

Asked if there is likely to be more such work now that this project is complete, he said: “Absolutely.”

The rig had been booked in for a 50-day programme of work, but Mr McVeigh said this only covered the bits which were known to need work, and which were planned.

He likened the operation to a kind of extreme MOT, which the rig only gets every five years.

Among much else, it involved poring over every inch of the structure’s huge tanks, which were “the size of a cathedral”.

The rig had formerly been stationed off Brazil, and will now move to start work in a harsh sea area off the Shetland Islands.