The administrators of Harland and Wolff in Belfast have allowed further time to explore potential rescue deals for the famous shipyard.

BDO Northern Ireland announced the continuation of a temporary unpaid lay-off of the workforce to facilitate ongoing "positive discussions" with would-be buyers.

While the workers are no longer getting paid, the lay-off means their contracts of employment remain unbroken.

That lay-off arrangement had been due to end today.

BDO issued a statement this morning saying it would be extended. 

There was no new deadline set on its extension.

Famed for building the Titanic, the shipyard went into administration last week after its troubled Norwegian parent company, Dolphin Drilling, failed to find a buyer.

"Since our appointment, there have been positive discussions with interested parties for the sale of the business as a going concern," BDO said in a statement.

"It is hoped that these discussions may result in credible offers.

"In light of this, the administrators, in tandem with the unions and workforce, are intending to continue the unpaid temporary lay-off initiated on our appointment beyond today.

"The limited retained team of workers are continuing to maintain the site and assist the administrators in carrying out their duties."

The shipbuilder, whose famous yellow cranes Samson and Goliath dominate the Belfast skyline, employed more than 30,000 people during Belfast's industrial heyday but that workforce numbered only around 125 when the company went into administration.

The business had diversified away from shipbuilding in the last two decades and until recently had primarily worked on wind energy and marine engineering projects.

Harland and Wolff was one of the UK's key industrial producers during the Second World War, supplying almost 150 warships.

Its workers, who have occupied the site 24/7 for nearly three weeks as part of a high-profile campaign to save their jobs, have called on the Government to step in to rescue the operation through nationalisation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to follow the lead of the Scottish Government, which has intervened to save the Ferguson Marine shipbuilding yard in Glasgow.

The Government has resisted calls for direct action at Harland and Wolff, claiming its troubles are a commercial issue.