During 1861, the company Harland and Wolff was formed. Mr. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, born in Hamburg during 1834, and Mr. Edward James Harland born during the year 1831, established the business. During 1858 Harland, who was the general manager at the time, bought the small shipyard situated on Queen's Island. He bought the property from Robert Hickson, who was his employer.
Once Harland purchased Hickson's shipyard, he then made his assistant Wolff a partner in the business. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff was the nephew of Gustav Schwabe of Hamburg. He has invested mostly in the Bibby Line. The first 3 ships that the brand new shipyard built were for that line. By being innovative, Harland made the business a successful venture. One of his famous ideas was increasing the overall strength of the ship by using iron for the upper wodden decks. Also, he was able to increase the capacity of the ship by giving the hulls a squarer cross section and a flatter bottom.
The company eventually experienced increasing pressures in the shipbuilding industry causing them to broaden their portfolio and shift their focus. They decided to concentrate less on shipbuilding and more on structural engineering and design. The company also diversified into the fields of offshore construction projects, ship repair and competing for more projects that had to do with metal engineering or construction.
Harland and Wolff had other interests, like a series of bridges to be built in the Republic of Ireland and in Britain. These bridges comprise the restoration of both the James Joyce Bridge and Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge. In the 1980s, with the building of the Foyle Bridge, their initial foray into the civil engineering sector occurred.
Today, the last shipbuilding project of Harland and Wolff was the MV Anvil Point. This was amongst six almost identical Point class sealift ships which was constructed for use by the Ministry of Defense. The ship was launched in 2003, after being constructed under license from Flensburger, Schiffbau-Gesellschaft, shipbuilders from Germany.