During the year 1861, the business Harland and Wolff was formed. Mr. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, born within Hamburg in 1834, and Mr. Edward James Harland born in 1831, established the company. In the year 1858 the general manager during the time, Harland, purchased the small shipyard on Queen's Island. He purchased the property from Robert Hickson, who was his employer.
Harland at one time bought Hickson's shipyard and made his assistant Wolff a partner in the company. Gustav Wolff was Gustav Schwabe of Hamburg's nephew. He has invested mostly in the Bibby Line. The initial 3 ships that were made by the brand new shipyard were for that line. By being innovative, Harland made the business a successful undertaking. Amongst his well-known ideas was increasing the overall strength of the ship by utilizing 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 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 even diversified into the areas of offshore construction projects, ship repair and competing for additional projects that 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 both Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge and the James Joyce Bridge. During the 1980s, with the building of the Foyle Bridge, their initial venture into the civil engineering sector happened.
Today, the last shipbuilding project of Harland and Wolff was the MV Anvil Point. This was amongst six near identical Point class sealift ships which was built to be used by the Ministry of Defense. The ship was launched in the year 2003, after being built under license from Flensburger, Schiffbau-Gesellschaft, shipbuilders from Germany.