Harland and Wolff, the Belfast shipyard that built the Titanic, has been saved from closure after a London-based energy company stepped in with a £6m rescue deal.
The historic shipyard went into administration in August after its Norwegian parent company collapsed.
But InfraStrata, which works on projects such as the Islandmagee underground gas storage plant off the coast of Country Antrim, said it planned to retain the 79 staff still employed at the yard and potentially employ hundreds more.
The Unite union praised the company’s workers for fighting to keep it alive, including a nine-week sit-in protest that was designed to raise awareness about its plight.
Unite’s assistant general secretary for manufacturing, Steve Turner, said: “I always knew that this incredible workforce would fight for and win the future that this community wholeheartedly deserves. They have stood strong and resolute while others were too ready to throw in the towel.
“Now, we have work to do. We have a shipyard to get back up and running to its full potential.”
InfraStrata said buying Harland and Wolff would allow it to bring work on key projects in-house, rather than outsourcing to contractors.
It would use the shipyard as part of its Islandmagee gas project to store 500m cubic metres of gas in underground salt beds to supply Ireland.
It would also contribute to the company’s plans for a floating gas storage facility.
The company plans to increase the size of the workforce by several hundred over the next five years, it said in a statement to the Aim junior stock market.
“Harland and Wolff is a landmark asset and its reputation as one of the finest multipurpose fabrication facilities in Europe is testament to its highly skilled team in Belfast,” said the InfraStrata chief executive, John Wood.
“This acquisition will clearly provide substantial advantages through vertical integration in addition to demonstrating our commitment to the Northern Irish economy, particularly in the post-Brexit era.”