A second life for survey boat
A chance encounter at Seawork International between a boat owner and a broker has led to a unique ice-strengthened survey launch being saved from retirement and sold to a buyer in the Baltic.
The 9-metre MSB James Caird was built by Halmatic in 1986 to be carried on board the Royal Navy's Antarctic Survey vessels for inshore survey duties. There were two of those ships named HMS Endurance after Ernest Shackleton's 1918 expedition, and the James Caird, named after Shackleton's main sponsor, served on both of them (1986-91 and 1992-2008). It was the only one of three MSBs to be ice-strengthened. Such specialist vessels are not available to purchase off-the-shelf and rarely appear in the resale market so when one appeared on wokboatsales.com marine contractor Vilius Kapocius of Marine Service, Lithuania, hurried down to the west of England where the twin-engined, SCV2, cat3 coded boat was ashore for annual maintenance. It had been rescued two years earlier from cold layup after completing a contract to survey the port of Plymouth and had since been extensively refurbished.
Mr Kapocius had been looking for a solid, stable but low-draft survey boat for some time and was immediately attracted by the vessel's transom profile, broad beam and 11-tonne dry weight which would make it very stable in the typical swell experienced in the port of Klaipeda. He also needed at least 3.5 metres beam to give space for his hydrographers to work in the wheelhouse. He was impressed that the ice-strengthened hull was made of heavy layup grp covered all round with 25mm high-compression mahogany cladding, with double sponson/strakes, known in the Navy as 'ice knives', above and below the waterline, a 120mm steel reinforced stem and propeller guards.
The buyer quickly made an acceptable offer and then had to organise transport to Lithuania by road and ship. There was no shipping cradle available, so he drove 3,900km in his company van with a welder and their own equipment to fabricate one in Freeman's Wharf boatyard in Falmouth.
Rather than enjoying retirement as a leisure craft and with little chance of charter work, the JC is starting its new life in the port of Klaipeda, where it is to be deployed on the inshore survey for maintenance dredging of the port on a contract with Jan de Nul (as announced in MJ tenders, August). The contract is for one year, surveying a 4km stretch of the lagoon which is virtually non-tidal.
A naturally sheltered multi-purpose port, open for navigation throughout the year, Klaipeda handles dry and liquid bulk, LNG, breakbulk, containers, passengers and Ro-Ro cargo. The maximum draft is 13.8m for bulkers and 13.2m for other cargoes. Ironically, Klaipeda is the only major Baltic port that does not freeze solid but it does see a build up of drift ice, and eventually Vilius intends to expand his operation to other countries such as neighbouring Latvia. The boat's built-in sonar transducers are long obsolete so he will install winches and a retractable outrigger to lower the latest state-of-the-art sonar scanners from the boat's side. He will also reconfigure the wheelhouse furniture to make more seating room for three hydrographers.
The broker, Martin Antrobus, recalled: "Seawork is always busy and a great opportunity to meet hundreds of new and familiar faces and 2018 was no exception on the workboatsales stand, where an introduction led to an agreement for us to list the James Caird for sale. She is a truly historic and unique vessel and after 32 years in service you might think her working days had come to an end.
"Workboatsales.com has an excellent customer base and geographical reach through Northern Europe, the USA and beyond. As the James Caird is so unique and built for ice class she will prove an excellent vessel for her new owners to carry out inshore survey works for many more years to come. Workboatsales are delighted to have brought the parties together in this sale and handle all of the exchange and handover process. We work with new and used sellers in the commercial sector bringing buyers and sellers together in all markets and regions."
Although this was one of the broker's smaller deals, the boat was priced to sell and the exchange was completed swiftly and smoothly, despite the distance between parties. The buyer is a marine engineer and he knew immediately that he wanted the boat without survey or sea trial. Once delivered to Klaipeda on a cargo vessel from Goole, Lincolnshire, he took it to the water and confirmed his expectations, telling the seller that the boat was "super".
By Graeme Ewens
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