In the year 1861, the company Harland and Wolff was established. Mr. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, born in Hamburg during 1834, together with Mr. Edward James Harland born in the year 1831, formed the company. During the year 1858 Harland, who was the general manager during the time, purchased the small shipyard on Queen's Island. He bought the property from Robert Hickson, who was his employer.
Harland at one time purchased Hickson's shipyard and made his assistant Wolff a partner in the business. Gustav Wolff was Gustav Schwabe of Hamburg's nephew. He has invested mostly in the Bibby Line. The initial 3 ships that the brand new shipyard built were for that line. By being innovative, Harland made the business a successful venture. Amongst his well-known suggestions was increasing the overall strength of the ship by replacing the upper wooden decks with iron ones. As well, 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 faced increasing pressures in the shipbuilding industry causing them to shift their focus and broaden their portfolio. They chose to concentrate less on shipbuilding and more on structural design and engineering. The company also diversified into the areas of ship repair, offshore construction projects as well as competing for additional projects which had to do with metal engineering or construction.
Harland and Wolff had other interests, such as a series of bridges to be constructed in Britain and in the Republic of Ireland. These bridges comprise the restoration of the James Joyce Bridge and Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge. During the 1980s, with the building of the Foyle Bridge, their first venture into the civil engineering sector took place.
Today, the last shipbuilding project of Harland and Wolff was the MV Anvil Point. This was amongst six almost identical Point class sealift ships that was constructed to be utilized by the Ministry of Defense. The ship was launched during 2003, after being constructed under license from Flensburger, Schiffbau-Gesellschaft, shipbuilders from Germany.