In 1861, the business Harland and Wolff was formed. Mr. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, born in Hamburg during the year 1834, and Mr. Edward James Harland born in the year 1831, formed the company. During the year 1858 the general manager at the time, Harland, bought the small shipyard on Queen's Island. He purchased the property from Robert Hickson, who was his employer.
Once Harland bought Hickson's shipyard, he then made his assistant Wolff a partner in the company. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff was the nephew of Gustav Schwabe of Hamburg. He has invested mainly in the Bibby Line. The first 3 ships which the brand new shipyard made were for that line. By being inventive, Harland made the business a successful venture. One of his well-known suggestions was increasing the overall strength of the ship by replacing the upper wooden decks with iron ones. Moreover, he was able to increase the capacity of the ship by giving the hulls a squarer cross section and a flatter bottom.
Harland and Wolff eventually experienced competitive pressures in regards to building ships. They sought to broaden their portfolio and shift their focus. They chose to concentrate more on structural engineering and design and less on shipbuilding. The business even diversified into the areas of ship repair, offshore construction projects and competing for more projects that had to do with construction and metal engineering.
These other interests led to Harland and Wolff constructing a series of bridges in Britain and in the Republic of Ireland. These bridges include the restoration of the James Joyce Bridge and Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge. In the 1980s, with the building of the Foyle Bridge, their initial venture into the civil engineering sector took place.
The MV Anvil Point was the last shipbuilding job of Harland and Wolff to date. This was amongst six near identical Point class sealift ships that was built to be used by the Ministry of Defense. The ship was launched in the year 2003, after being built under license from German shipbuilders Flensburger, Schiffbau-Gesellschaft.