8th January 2010, 23:09
Back in the 1960/70s I recall an awkward-looking vessel TANKLEAN on the Thames - later she went to Falmouth and some photos from there confirm my recollections. What about her origin?

Her registration docs:

ON 306256 steel cargo
424grt 280nrt 139.5 x 30.1 x 11.3ft
blt 1960 Ayr Engineering & Constructional Co Ltd, Ayr
2 x M8cy 480bhp 10kn 2scr Bergius Kelvin
1961 The Thames Welding and Tank Cleaning Co Ltd, London as TANKLEAN (reg London)
1978 The Falmouth Towage Co Ltd, Falmouth
1979 (reg Falmouth)
1986 Balmoor Plant Ltd, Crimond Aberdeenshire
1986 Kevin [Kelvin?] Oliphant Ltd, Peterhead
[then what?]

Elsewhere suggested by Mike Ridgard that she might never have left Falmouth until towed by ARGUS T to Pembroke for demolition in 10/1988.

But was she really a newbuilding? Ayr Engineering was an offshoot of London Graving Dock and, as far as I know, didn't build any other steel vessels - but they did do a number of conversions post-WW2. But if a conversion, from what?


15th February 2010, 19:42
David :

I have now carried out some further research on this peculiar craft and I owe you an apology - it appears she was indeed built in Ayr, by the Ayr Engineering and Constructional Company Limited just as you surmised originally. Here are the details gleaned from an article published in a local newspaper on 23rd of December 1960 :

When the Thames Welding Company's tanker, 'TANKLEAN', being fitted out at Ayr Shipyard by Ayrshire puts to sea early in the New Year (1961) it will be the only vessel of its kind in Britain.

Work started in April on the hull of the vessel and it is expected to have the tanker ready for its maiden voyage next month, before starting its unique job in the River Thames. The prevention of oil pollution on the Thames will play a large part of 'TANKLEAN's' work. It will go alongside other tankers and receive sludge - a mixture of oil and water.

The sludge will be transferred to tanks aboard 'TANKLEAN' and the oil and water separated in specially fitted equipment. The water is pumped back into the River and the oil can be put into an oil storage tank, until it is ready to be put ashore.

Mr. MacMillan, Manager of the Company, told the 'Post' that although most of the work had been carried out in the vessel by the Firm, it had been necessary to sub-contract some of the fitting work to other local Firms.

'Tanklean's' dimensions are 150 feet x 30 feet, and she has a displacement of 800 tons. In addition, the moulded engine depth is 11 feet x 9 feet. The vessel is powered by two Kelvin T.8 240 HP diesel engines - the largest vessel to have T.8s installed. Also fitted is a Paxton Riccardo Generator which provides power of 220 volts, in additon to a Compressor.

The biggest problem which faced the Firm was the fitting-out of the Boiler and Separation equipment. This was soon solved, however, by floating the 'TANKLEAN' across the Harbour to the North Quay, where the largest crane lowered the equipment into the ship.

The vessel will have a crew of six. The Chef is provided with a compact galley leading on to a saloon, comfortably panelled and furnished. The Captain and Chief Engineer have their own cabin with space for an extra bunk if needed. The remainder of the crew have their own quarters.

The ship is fitted with the latest Ministry of Transport approved fire-fighting equipment and, to complete safety measures, life-saving apparatus is supplied.

This week, the finishing touches were being put to the Wheelhouse, equipped with the latest Pye ship-to-shore radio telephone.

Mr. MacMillan said that the present Contract could well be the forerunner of quite a few Orders for the Firm, who have had one of their busiest years. For the past month they have been overhauling another ship at the Harbour and several fishing boats were due into the drydock this weekend for an annual refit.

On a personal note - I think it is 'gilding the lily' to describe the vessel as 'unique' or to describe her as 'the only vessel of its kind in Britain'. I know of two other similar-duty vessels that were in operation at that time, one on the Clyde and, if I recall correctly, the other on the Tyne. The Clyde vessel was the 'TULIPBANK', and during my five and a half years on the Clyde that little gallant vessel was alongside literally dozens of the ships I worked on, taking on board the contents of oil fuel tanks whilst we carried out repairs to heating coils, leaking door gaskets, or whatever, then when finished she would pump it all back into the parent vessel, as far as recall filtered and free of any moisture content. Her sister-ship did the same thing on the Tyne. It was not limited to tankers, it could be a cargo ship, a naval ship, anything.

The other strange item is the reference to 'fishing boats due into the drydock'. To the best of my knowledge Ayr never had a drydock, at any time, since ships were built there in 1263 for the navy of Alexander III, and certainly not in 1960! The patent slip, first laid down in 1830, was arguably the only means of overhauling vessels, all other work had to be performed on vessels alongside.

Trust the foregoing clarifies the provenance of the strange 'TANKLEAN'.

Angus Mac Kinnon

15th February 2010, 21:41
Angus - thank you - that's very helpful indeed.
best wishes


15th February 2010, 22:08
Welcome, David.