Million-pound investment for UK Docks’ Tees ship repair yard

Tees Business Digital Media Pack

UK Docks has continued to invest in its Teesside ship repair facility with the purchase of two Nelcon dockside cranes from the Port of Workington.

The two cranes – landmarks in the North-West town for the past three decades – are now set to become a prominent part of the River Tees skyline and will greatly enhance the speed and efficiency of work being carried out in the company’s two dry docks on the south bank of the river.

Each crane has a safe working load of 30 tonnes at 10 metres and 12 tonnes at 28 metres and they will support the work of cranes currently in operation.

The arrival of the giant cranes, which weigh 230-tonne each and were originally built in Rotterdam, Holland, has been an engineering achievement in itself.

After being removed from their established positions in Workington, they were loaded onto the Terra Marique barge by self-propelled modular transporters, (SPMT’s), and shipped 927 nautical miles before arriving on the Tees where they were offloaded and manoeuvred into place.

The cranes, still emblazoned with the words ‘Port of Workington’, were fully refurbished in 2009 and represent a major investment in a yard which had lain derelict for more than 30 years before UK Docks brought it back into operation in 2014.

It took two years for UK Docks, which operates a string of ship repair yards around England’s coast, to restore the Tees facility to working order.

But now the docks are flourishing with ice patrol ship HMS Protector currently dry-docked in No 2 dock and the Svitzer-owned tug, the Svitzer Vidar docked in No 1 dock.

HMS Echo, the Ministry of Defence multi-role hydrographic survey ship, is also due to berth alongside in the coming days for her bi-annual maintenance period and the Nelcon cranes will have important roles to play in all three contracts.

UK Docks’ director Jonathan Wilson said: “It is very satisfying to have had the cranes successfully transported and reassembled and we want to thank everyone involved for their expertise and professionalism.

“The move represents a seven-figure investment in our Teesside facility and one worth making as the docks continue to improve their working capacity.

“We have bought the two cranes outright and they will be invaluable in facilitating the work required on what is a full order book.

“New foundations and crane tracks have had to be installed to ensure their stability and with them being such sizeable constructions, a lot of care and engineering skill had to go into their deployment.

“But the effort is worth it because it will now give us two additional cranes with increased capacity operating alongside each other servicing both docks and that will make a major difference to our efficiency and speed in processing future contracts on the Tees.”

The cranes were reluctantly sold as they were no longer required in the town’s harbour but they will be missed, as the giant structures were among the first sights visible on the skyline to visitors to the town.

Cumbria County Council cabinet member Keith Little, who was at Workington docks to watch the cranes begin their journey to Teesside, had been there 30 years ago to see them originally unloaded.

He said: “They’ve been very useful to us over the years and we’ve looked after and maintained them but they’re surplus to requirements now and Teesside is a much busier port. The cranes will be put to better use there.”

UK Docks offers dry docks and boat repair facilities, major refit and conversion, marine support to offshore projects, including renewable energy, marine and general engineers, and rapid response personnel.

The family-owned company, which is run by Harry Wilson and his sons Jonathan, Gary and Chris, has bucked a national trend for many years of declining, closed and mothballed dockyards. It expanded to open working docks on the Wear in 2002 and on the Tees in 2014, creating more than 100 jobs in the process.

Headquartered on the banks of the Tyne with its main docks in Middlesbrough, it has won several Ministry of Defence contracts, culminating with the £150m, 10-year contract to service and repair the vessels HMS Enterprise, HMS Echo and HMS Protector. The company employs 130 staff directly and supports many more workers and companies in the region through its supply chain.