In 1861, the company Harland and Wolff was formed. Mr. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, born within Hamburg in the year 1834, together with Mr. Edward James Harland born during the year 1831, formed the business. In 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 business. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff was the nephew of Gustav Schwabe of Hamburg. He has invested heavily in the Bibby Line. The first 3 ships which the brand new shipyard constructed were for that line. By being inventive, Harland made the business a successful undertaking. Amongst his well-known suggestions was increasing the ship's overall strength by replacing the upper wooden decks with iron ones. In addition, he was able to increase the capacity of the ship by giving the hulls a flatter bottom and a square cross section.
Harland and Wolff were eventually faced with competitive pressures in regards to building ships. They sought to shift their focus and broaden their portfolio. They chose to focus less on shipbuilding and more on structural engineering and design. The company even diversified into the fields of ship repair, offshore construction projects as well as competing for more 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 the Republic of Ireland and in Britain. These bridges consist of the restoration of Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge and the James Joyce Bridge. In the 1980s, with the building of the Foyle Bridge, their first foray into the civil engineering sector occurred.
The MV Anvil Point was the last shipbuilding project of Harland and Wolff to date. 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 German shipbuilders Flensburger, Schiffbau-Gesellschaft.