In the year 1861, the business Harland and Wolff was formed. Mr. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, born in Hamburg in the year 1834, together with Mr. Edward James Harland born during 1831, established the company. During 1858 the general manager at the time, Harland, purchased the small shipyard located on Queen's Island. He purchased the property from his employer, Richard Hickson.
When Harland bought 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 mainly in the Bibby Line. The initial 3 ships that were constructed by the brand new shipyard were for that line. By being innovative, Harland made the business a successful venture. One of his well-known ideas was increasing the ship's overall strength by replacing the upper wooden decks with iron ones. Moreover, he was able to increase the ship's capacity by giving the hulls a flatter bottom and a square cross section.
The business eventually faced increasing pressures in the shipbuilding sector causing them to shift their focus and broaden their portfolio. They decided to concentrate more on structural engineering and design and less on shipbuilding. The company even diversified into the areas of offshore construction projects, ship repair as well as competing for more projects that had to do with metal engineering or construction.
These other interests led to Harland and Wolff constructing a series of bridges in Britain and in the Republic of Ireland. These bridges consist of the restoration of the James Joyce Bridge and Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge. In the 1980s, their first venture into the civil engineering sector took place with the building of the Foyle Bridge.
To date, the last shipbuilding project of Harland and Wolff was the MV Anvil Point. This was among six almost identical Point class sealift ships which was constructed to be utilized by the Ministry of Defense. The ship was launched during the year 2003, after being constructed under license from German shipbuilders Flensburger, Schiffbau-Gesellschaft.