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  • Writer's picturePaul Whittle



Launched on Thursday 12th June 1980 at the yard of Ferguson Ailsa Ltd, Civil & Marine’s 3122grt Cambourne was renamed Arco Bourne when C & M were acquired by Hanson Aggregates Marine. She was sold in 2006 to Jaisu Dredging & Shipping Ltd of Kandia, India who first renamed her Bourne for the passage to India where she was named again as the Mumbai registered Kamal XXXIII. She was reputed to be the first aggregate dredger to have a triple discharge capability as she could dry self-discharge at a rate of 1800tonnes per hour by way of her bucket scraper/conveyor, wet discharge at a rate of 3500tonnes per hour via her pump ashore system or bottom dump at sea in minutes through her hydraulically operated bottom doors.


Arco Bourne 'wet' discharging sand onto Mablethorpe beach

though floating pipeline on port bow

Arco Bourne's crew maintaining cargo dump doors through which sand cargo is dropped into a flooded duct keel which takes the sand ashore via a pipeline attached to her port side forward (see above). It was essential and something of an art to keep the balance of sand and water flowing though the discharge pipe such that sand was discharged at the maximum rate without blocking the duct keel The Cambourne’s dry discharge system was another first for the industry. Since Civil & Marine had the idea of using a bucket wheel for dry discharging nine years earlier, discussions with the mechanical handling company Strachan & Henshaw of Bristol had solved the problem of incorporating the discharge machine into an already congested cargo hold area. The main breakthrough was to turn the conventional bucket wheel design through 90 degrees which in turn required the cargo hold to be shaped to match the rotating wheel system.

Arriving in the Thames in March 1981, unlike its predecessors, the Cambourne was free from teething problems and was put to work on nine month £3 million reclamation contract of the stone marshes below the Dartford crossing on the south bank of the river which required 1 million tonnes of sand fill and 65,000m3 of river dredging for a deep water berth, all executed by the Cambourne

In June 1980 the VIC 62 was acquired by Cornish Calcified Seaweed Co. Ltd who used her to dredge sand and seaweed out of Truro. On 8th August 1986 she sailed from Truro for Port Millom to be broken up by Millom Shipbreakers Ltd; who removed her wheelhouse and sold it to Allerdale Council for refurbishing the wheelhouse of the VIC96 which may now be seen at The Maryport Maritime Museum. Her original 2 cylinder steam compound engine was estimated to date back to the 1920s and so was assumed to have been 2nd hand when fitted to her when she was built. It was donated to the Science Museum.

VIC 16

VIC16 at Truro

Like so many of the Victualing Inshore Craft, the VIC 62 had an interesting history. Launched at the Northwich yard of J. Pimbolt on 15th May 1945, she was one of the “Improved VICs”, fitted with a refurbished main engine she served the Royal Navy at Milford Haven until 1947. Thereafter she was variously employed and scheduled to be scrapped when, on 10th November 1970, she was acquired by the National Physical Laboratory, Hovercraft Unit of Hythe. After confirming that her fixed ballast of forty four rounds of 15 inch ammunition were in fact solid practice shells, her boiler was scrapped and her compound steam engine of 1920’s vintage given to London’s Science Museum. With a new diesel engine, electric generator and gearbox and a 20ft container in her hold full of electronic recording equipment, for several years she was used as a sea- going laboratory investigating such things as the handling characteristics of Very Large Crude (oil) Carriers (VLCC) and the effect upon a ship under way and measurement of “squat”. Squat being the reduction of under-keel-clearance resulting from the bodily sinkage and change of trim which occurs when a ship moves through the water. The effect of squat is noticed only in shallow wasters where it is a potential hazard.

VIC 16


The mid 1980’s saw ARC Marine start a four ship new building programme with the 3476 Arco Avon which was launched at the Appledore Ferguson yard on 5th September 1986. She was to the first of four sister ships which included an industry first being an electric dredged pump sited part way along the length of the dredge pipe which was submerged when in use allowing the ships to depths of some 43mtrs. This innovation was to be adopted widely by the industry and was instigated by ARC Marine’s MD "Bill" Cottell who saw submersible dredge pumps being used in the Pacific Ocean to recover manganese nodules from depths of 20,000feet .

Arco Avon

The “A Class”, as ARC referred to the four ships, which cost a very competitive £10 million each, had discharge conveyors on the port and starboard sides together a variable pitch propeller and bow thrust but their most obvious feature was the bridge and accommodation which was sited close to the bow. This innovative design was to soon be seen in Brett Marine’s 1991 new build Britannia Beaver and UMD’s City of London and City of Westminster.

City of London


United Marine Aggregates Ltd (UMA) was formed in September 1987 when Pioneer Aggregates amalgamated with Tarmac Marine which had been set up in 1983 as Tarmac Sand & Gravel Ltd; itself being formed of the original companies Frances Aggregates Ltd and Frances Parker Concrete Ltd which had their origins in John Heaver Ltd.

Having acquired Francis Parker Concrete Ltd in the 1970’s, in 1981 Tarmac Roadstone (Southern) Ltd acquired both Hoveringham Gravels Ltd and Francis Concrete Ltd. In 1987 Tarmac and Pioneer formed United Marine Aggregates (UMA) to include all vessels and wharfs. The dredging arm of UMA was branded United Marine Dredging Ltd (UMD) in 1991. 2000 saw Pioneer acquired by Hanson and Tarmac acquired by Anglo American resulting in Hanson Aggregates Marine & UMD forming Solent Aggregates Ltd which divided the companies’ wharves on a 50-50 basis. After Heidelberg Cement of Germany purchased Hanson in 2008 the Hanson / Tarmac joint venture agreement left Tarmac as the sole owner of UMD which was rebranded Tarmac Marine Dredging Ltd. (TMD).

The following year on 10th April 1987, the Arco Avon’s sister ship, Arco Arun was launched at Appledore. Eleven years later, on 13th October 1998, she was holed rounding Broadness Point in the River Thames where she ran aground and capsized. Refloated by Smit Tak she was towed to Great Yarmouth where she was refurbished by George Prior Engineering Ltd...

Arco Avon


The third sibling, Arco Adur was launched on 18th March 1988 followed on the 5th May 1989 by the youngest sister, Arco Axe. Arco Adur arrived at the Van Heygen Recycling yard in Ghent on 12th June 2018 where she was broken up.

Arco Axe


On 5th November 1989, the launching of the Britannia Beaver at Appledore’s Devon shipyard marked the Britannia Aggregates Ltd entry into the marine dredging industry. The 3610grt Britannia Beaver was essentially a twin screwed version of ARC’s A class ships with a bridge up forward and capable of dredging to a depth of 45 metres. Part of the Brett Group of companies, Britannia Aggregates Ltd was formed in the late 1980’s to relieve the increasing pressures being put on land resources and to best ensure the consistent supply of aggregates to the Brett owned wharves in the River Thames.

During the decade Civil & Marine expanded their operation with the purchase of a fourteen acre site from Lafarge Cement Co. on the north side of the Thames at Purfleet, and acquired its Belgium family owned customer D’Hoore as well as buying Delta Wharf at Blackwall In July 1989 Maureen Hockcliffe, the wife of Greenhithe based Civil & Marine’s Technical Director Bob Hockcliffe launched the 3325grt Cambeck at IHC’s Kinderdijk yard. Reportedly, only the second British flag ship to be fitted with a free fall lifeboat, the Cambeck was a great success, being re-named Arco Beck when ARC Marine acquired the company in 1995.

Cambeck The last ship to join the industry’s “South East Fleet” in the 1980s was UMD’s 3660grt City of London which was launched at Appledore on 27th October 1989 and completed in December of that year. She was the first new building for UMD and followed very closely the design of ARC Marine’s A Class ships with the bridge forward, funnels aft and a submersible electric dredge pump on the dredge pipe.


In 1990 ARC Marine Ltd took delivery of the 1309grt sister ships, Arco Dart & Arco Dee. Built at IHC’s Sliedrecht yard at a cost of £9million. The design of the two ships included twin omni-directional Aquamaster propellers which, when coupled with their bow thrust, gave the two ships unparallel manoeuvrability which has proved its worth operationally during their lifetime. In her early days the Arco Dart traded to Rye where the navigation channel was particularly narrow. Later she spent some time on the Portuguese coast where the need for her to “rock dodge” was made that much safer by her ability to turn in her own length or move bodily sideways. The Arco Dee has spent most of her life in the Bristol Channel where her manoeuvrability is no less useful.

The Arco Dart & Arco Dee also had a new design of automated discharge equipment which, as is the way of things with such relatively radical designs, required a number of modifications but which has ultimately allowed the ships to discharge ????tonnes in ????minutes

Patent description of the Nagron discharge system used on Arco Dee, Dart & Scheldt :The invention provides a method for unloading a space filled with bulk material using at least one grab supported by a chassis, wherein the chassis is displaced in lengthwise direction of the space and wherein the grab is emptied above a cross conveyor, characterized in that the cross conveyor is moved reciprocally each time relative to the chassis between a receiving position situated beneath the grab and a retracted position, while in the retracted position of the cross conveyor the grab is lowered into the space and raised there from filled with material and opened above the cross conveyor in the receiving position of the cross conveyor. Long bites of material are thus systematically removed each time from a hold in transverse direction of the hold.

Arco Scheldt before she was fitted with Nagron discharge gear

Arco Dee

In 1990 South Coast Shipping’s new building programme saw the 37651grt sister ships Sand Heron and Sand Harrier launched at De Merwede’s Hardinxveld shipyard on 10th March and 16th November respectively.

Sand Heron

UMD’s most recent new building, the 3914 City of Westminster was launched in Devon by Appledore Shipbuilders on 9th April 1990.

1990 also saw the 681gt Donald Redford arrival on the south coast. She was launched at the Ferguson Brothers’ Port Glasgow yard on 26th November 1981 and named after the Chairman of the owning company, The Manchester Ship Canal Co. Ltd. Originally a grab dredger working in the Manchester Ship Canal she was acquired by Northwood (Fareham) Ltd in 1990 who converted to a suction dredger whilst lengthening her by 8 metres. Seven years later, in 1997, Westminster Dredging Co. Ltd. acquired Northwood (Fareham) Ltd from Derek & Terry Twine.

The Donald Redford was involved in one of the industry’s more high profile incidents when, at 1808 hrs on 1st November 2003 she collided with the Hythe Pier in Southampton Water. The pier was damaged but the stoutly built Donald Redford was unscathed, which could not be said of her Captain who was successfully prosecuted. At the age of thirty one, at 1100hrs on 19th July 2011 she left Marchwood Quay in Southampton towed by the tug Vengeance en route for Ghent breakers where she arrived at 0800hrs in the 21st.


On the 17th January 1992 Civil & Marine saw their last and largest new building, the 4960grt Camdijk, launched at IHC’s Kinderdijk. With a dredging depth capability of 50mtrs by way of a submersible dredge pump on a dredge pipe weighing 93 tonnes and a cargo capacity of 8500 tonnes, the Camdijk was reputed to be the largest purpose built aggregate dredger in the world. However, the days of the once largest privately owned UK aggregate dredging company were numbered.


In 1990 Civil & Marine Ltd was sold to Evered Plc for £138 million. Soon after, when the Camdijk was being built, Evered joined with Bardon Hill Quarries Ltd to form Evered Bardon Plc (later renamed Bardon Group) with Civil & Marine the jewel in the Group’s crown. In the late 1980’s the “jewel” had significantly expanded their presence on the near content with company berths in Amsterdam and Antwerp and other outlets in Zeebrugge, Ostend and Dunkirk. Finally, on 1st November 1995, with the Bardon Group in financial difficulties, Civil & Marine was sold to its largest competitor, ARC Marine (Hanson) for £72million.

It is worthy of note that at the time of Civil & Marine’s demise the UK aggregate dredging industry was producing some 27 million tonnes of marine aggregates with a fleet of 45 ships. Civil & Marine’s 4 dredgers alone were producing 5.5 million tonnes (20%) of that total.


In 1997 South Coast Shipping placed an order for two ships with the De Merwede shipyard in Hardinxveld, Holland being the 5307grt sister ships Sand Falcon launched on 14th February 1998 and the Sand Falcon launched on 13th June the same year. Six years later, the Sand Fulmar returned to the De Merwede where she was lengthened by over 20 metres making her, at 120metres with a capacity of some 9000tonnes, the largest aggregate dredger in the world.


An example of the consequences of the high work load in a hostile environment for a modern aggregate dredger came in 2005 when UMD embarked upon a major refit for their City of London & City of Westminster. At just 11 & 10 years old respectively each had delivered an averaged over 1 million tons of aggregate a year and “…were becoming increasingly unreliable, costly and difficult to maintain..”. The work included the upgrading of engine room alarms and the plant monitors plus the complete overhaul of the main engine gearboxes and main engine driven generators. Most significantly, the work undertaken at Amsterdam Ship Repair BV saw the installation of two new Wartsisa 6L2622 main engines, two Wartsila 2.9m diameter type 4D710 propellers and two Wartsila type 19A propeller nozzles. Both ships were also fitted with new loading towers. All this at a cost of ?


In 2007 Heidelberg Cement of Germany acquired Hanson PLC which in turn resulted in UMD, which was previously a 50/50 Hanson /Tarmac owned company, being wholly owned by Tarmac and renamed Tarmac Marine. The company currently trades to the UK ports London (Murphys & Erith) Ridham, Shoreham, Newhaven, Southampton, Bedhampton & Cowes. 2017

Artist's impression of the new Hanson dredgers

Hanson in investing £6o million in a pair of new dredgers to be built by the Dutch shipbuilder Barkmeijer at its yard in Stroobos. The ships are the first new additions to the Hanson fleet in more than 25 years. The new ships will have a similar capacity to the company's A Class ships of and will enter service in 2019.

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