Passing through Hull, I noted in the William Wright Dock, three of the Gardline fleet in for survey or refit and I recognised old friends, Ocean Seeker the former Irish Lights Granuaille 1,943,’70, Ferguson built, and astern of her the product of Hyundai the ex Trinity House Mermaid 2,820,’87 now the Ocean Observer.
I’m not sure this image was from the same occasion, but in this view, the third vessel in the distance is the Sea Explorer, a ship I have seen at Aberdeen, that hub for most survey ships at some time in their careers.
Since the late 1960s, when the need for accurate surveying and positioning first became apparent in the British sector of the North Sea, Gardline has been one of the principal UK companies delivering that service. They have since diversified to specialise in applied marine science and technology, producing hydrographic and marine geophysical surveys of the seabed and sub-seabed, surveying for cable and pipeline routeing and burial assessments, and all manner of seabed sampling, environmental impact and marine biological studies and fishery research in coastal, continental shelf and deep ocean waters.
Throughout their existence and to the present day, they have had an interesting and varied fleet and now are operating some 14 offshore and ocean going vessels. They employ 1,000 people with a head office appropriately in Great Yarmouth, service centre for the Southern North Sea. Gardline and other survey companies often employ ex naval and government agency vessels on which to base their specialist equipment. The reasons are surely obvious as they were built to a high spec and are usually well maintained with years of life in them when disposed of. Some can be readily adapted for their new role and not least can have considerable accommodation to house technicians, scientists and space for labs and offices where they can work.
At the time of writing, Ocean Observer and Sea Explorer are in north Norwegian waters whilst Ocean Seeker is reported still in Hull. In the fleet, is the former Fishery Protection Vessel Vigilant, 1,365,’82 another Fergusons product, and she is heading from Holland via Shoreham down Channel.
This business is increasingly international with joint ventures and subcontracting and ships move from the North Sea across the globe to do similar work. Ocean Researcher, seen here at Aberdeen, was the British research ship Charles Darwin 1,936,’84 delivered from Appledore and she is currently in Santa Marta, Colombia. Ocean Endeavour 1,967,’86 is the former RMAS salvage and mooring vessel Salmaster, Hall Russell built and she is anchored off Port of Spain Trinidad.