The company Harland and Wolff was established during the year 1861, by Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, born within Hamburg in 1834, together with Mr. Edward James Harland born in 1831. In the year 1858 the general manager at the time, Harland, bought the small shipyard situated 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 mostly in the Bibby Line. The first 3 ships that the brand new shipyard constructed were for that line. By being inventive, 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. Also, he was able to increase the ship's capacity by giving the hulls a squarer cross section and a flatter bottom.
Harland and Wolff were eventually faced with competitive pressures in regards to shipbuilding. They sought to shift their focus and broaden their portfolio. They decided to concentrate more on structural engineering and design and less on building ships. The business even diversified into the areas of offshore construction projects, ship repair and competing for additional projects that had to do with construction and metal engineering.
Harland and Wolff had other interests, like a series of bridges to be constructed in the Republic of Ireland and in Britain. These bridges consist of 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 first foray into the civil engineering sector occurred.
Today, the last shipbuilding job of Harland and Wolff was the MV Anvil Point. This was one of six near identical Point class sealift ships which was built to be utilized by the Ministry of Defense. The ship was launched in 2003, after being constructed under license from German shipbuilders Flensburger, Schiffbau-Gesellschaft.