The oil and gas rig supply vessel was the new design of the late ‘60s and ‘70s that soon became ubiquitous. Since then the new type that has perhaps proliferated more than any other and almost from nowhere, is the ‘workboat‘, often termed a Multi-Cat, Multi Craft or some other name which was originally a brand name.
I see them as the ‘JCB’ of the seas, JCB being another brand name often used to describe a general type of ruggedly equipped landbased builders’ and contractors’ friend.
Workboats like the JCB are increasing in numbers, sophistication and even size, though handiness is paramount. An outsize one looking like a stretched workboat was delivered last December for the Port of London Authority (PLA) from Manor Marine of Portland, Dorset, a £7 million multipurpose river maintenance vessel named London Titan. She is a major asset, helping to fulfi l the PLA’s duty to oversee navigation on the tidal Thames from Teddington Lock to the estuary which as the PLA states is: “home to the UK’s second largest port, busiest inland waterway… with rowing, yachting and other sporting activities all the way”.
Regular work for this giant of the ‘handy’ workboat category will include; laying, maintaining and repairing moorings, laying buoys, clearing and hauling wreckage, supporting divers, ‘plough’ dredging and working with third-party projects when required.
A large part of the London Titan and other workboat’s usefulness is due to shallow draft, being able to get to places that full sea going hulls can’t reach and take the ground without harm. However, the innovative Scottish - Isle of Mull - based company ‘Inverlussa Marine’ is successfully operating two types of workboat, the shallow draft landing craft / work platform and sea going/offshore design with a sea-kindly bow and full hull with a sheltered aft deck and crane. Pleasingly, all their craft have been Scottish built, four landing craft at Girvan Ayrshire by A Noble & Sons and the near sisters Helen Mary and Helen Burnie at Macduff. Note the kind of seas off Cape Wrath the latter two can cope with. With aquaculture interests themselves, they are working at many different fish farm sites in Scotland, but recently won a £multimillion 30 month contract in a joint venture with Mainprize Offshore Ltd to work on the Race Bank windfarm off Lincolnshire and have based their Helen Mary at Grimsby for the time being.
Helen Mary was part of a £3.5m investment to allow Inverlussa Marine to expand into the renewables sector and it is paying off with nine new staff taking the total to around 50. The Race Bank scheme of DONG energy will be capable of powering over half a million UK homes. Their spokesman states: “these two UK companies (Inverlussa/Mainprize) will play a vital role in construction. It’s also really encouraging to hear this contract has led to new staff being taken on at Inverlussa Marine Services and has helped the business kickstart its expansion into the renewables sector.”
The Inverlussa team with Helen Mary, will perform buoy maintenance, dive support, deliver fuel, food, water and spares, provide guard duties, debris clearance and emergency tug work. Helen Mary is specially suited to these duties with her crane, 4 point anchoring system for dive support, and her aft deck able to take six 20ft containers for cargo and work spaces.
A number of small UK builders like Manor Marine and Macduff, have turned out a number of workboat type hulls before, but the prolifi c builders and operators of the type are of course the Dutch who have added to their renowned tug building and operating expertise the workboat type, epitomised by the Damen ‘Multicat’ now built in Damen subsidiary yards around the world, and Delta ‘Multi Craft’ which are also in use world-wide.
A Dutch firm operating internationally and one that has undertaken many of the UK and near continent’s shallow water contracts is Acta Marine established in 1970 and now operating fifty different vessels. They have wide experience working for the dredging and marine construction, fish farming, oil, gas and offshore wind energy industries. Cable and pipeline burial in shallow waters is a speciality.
The company’s vessels have been very active in UK waters in recent years, The Tetney Terminal project, nearby Grimsby, involved the replacement of the offshore pipeline and manifold section of the oil import line. Replacement of the 4.2 km pipeline involved their Coastal Boxer, Coastal Worker and chartered craft. The Acta vessels were involved with anchor and buoy handling, crane work, supply and often working with a constant swell.
Coastal Worker has worked on the Lincolnshire windfarms and Coastal Vanguard on Walney 2, a wind farm constructed 14 kms west of Walney Island in the Irish Sea. Walney, with a capacity of 367 MW, is one of the largest wind farms in the world.
Coastal Vanguard operated with the cable laying barge Stemat Spirit. Coastal Chariot has been deployed laying various fibre optic cables in British shallow waters and Coastal Hunter has been employed on fishing farm schemes in Scotland where Multicat Eurocarrier 2209 has supported constructing and adapting new and existing Scottish salmon farms.