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  • Writer's picturePaul Whittle


The 1960’s was to see significant increase in the UK’s aggregate dredging fleets with a couple of dozen ships coming into service around the coast.


The first newcomer of the new decade on the south coast was the 1907 built ex-Thames Conservancy Hopper No7 which Foremost Dredging Co. Ltd. had acquired in 1952. Re-engined in 1960, she was converted to a suction dredger in 1961 and named 861gt Seastone. Ownership was transferred to James Contracting & Shipping Co Ltd in 1966 and again to Westminster Gravels Ltd in 1968. In her early years, from 1916 to 1920, she was requisition by the Admiralty who converted her to an oil tanker and named her Greenol being a topically environmentally friendly name somewhat ahead of its time. In her later years she was chartered to the likes of Normandie Dredging & Shipping Co. Ltd. In her 76th year the hard worked old lady arrived at the Passage West yard of Haulbowline Industries Ltd. in February 1982 where she was broken up.

Also in 1961, Foremost Dredging Co.Ltd. acquired the 1313 grt Brentford. Launched with the name Brent Knoll on 1st June 1950 at the Sunderland yard of S.P.Austin & Son Ltd. she was a collier built for the Central Electricity Generating Board. Acquired by one Douglas Arnold in 1961, who named her Brentford and converted her to an aggregate dredger before promptly selling her to Foremost Dredging Co. who gave her the name Wightstone. Her ownership was transferred to James Contracting & Shipping Co.Ltd. In 1966 and again to Westminster Gravels Ltd in 1968. She was sent to Grays in Essex on 8th October 1976 where she was broken up by T.W.Ward Ltd.


Wightstone at Bay Wharf Greenwich breaker's yard

J.Bolson & Son launched South Coast Shipping’s second “500 tonner” the 517grt Sand Snipe on 28th August 1961. The Sand Snipe is still trading albeit almost unrecognisable from her as-built look. Having been laid up in Hayle, Cornwall for some years, she was extensively rebuilt at Padstow in 1999, including new wheelhouse, new square stern and twin rudders plus [bottom dumping doors??]. She can now be seen dredging Padstow Harbour and its approaches carrying her original name but bearing very little resemblance to her original appearance. Earlier in her life she was sold by South Coast Shipping to Derek Parnaby of Cyclones International Ltd based in Ferryhill, County Durham to be used to recover sea coal off Hartlepool. The dredged material was landed at the company’s purpose built processing plant on the harbour side. The venture ended when the Sand Snipe foundered off Seaham in June 1982 after which she was salved and sold to D.Cook of Hull before being acquired by D.G. & C.J. Williams of Hayle (DGW Sand Co Ltd) who carried out her extensive refit. It is reported that the funnel of the original Sand Snipe is still to be found in the grounds of a house in Hayle.

Stern view of the converted Sand Snipe with her new wheelhouse new stern and twin rudders


Ecolab & Sons acquired a 1943 built ex-Admiralty lighter and converted her to a suction dredger in 1963 and named her Eke. Built by J.S. Watson (Gainsborough) Ltd. she is currently lying wrecked and half submerged on the banks of the river Sir in Ireland but exactly how she got there is unknown.

South Coast’s third 500tonner, the 540grt Sand Lark was launched at Boson’s yard on 27thJuly 1963. She was re-named Sand Martin in 1991when acquired by the Irish shipowners Sunwood Shipping Ltd. under the St Vincent & Grenadines flag. 2001 saw her name changed again to Dragacor owned by the Azores based company Dragacor Sociedade Acoreana de Dragagens Lda. In January 2013 the 50 year old girl was enjoying the sun working out of the Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan.

Sand Lark

April 1963 saw the 987gt Gritwood launched at Boele’s yard in Bolnes, Holland for Wm. France, Fenwick & Co Ltd. She was acquired by Ham River Grit (later Hall Dredging Ltd) in 1969 who changed her name to John Gauntlett the following year before selling her to Rederij Joh. Boele BV in 1978 who re-named her Eridani with a new gross tonnage of 1219. She was finally sold to the Esprit Corporation of Malaysia and given the name Esprit VII. Last reported as “decommissioned or lost”.

First built in 1949 for the British Electrical Authority of London as the 1366grt collier Poole Island, in 1959, when the London power stations at Barking and Littlebrook were switched from coal to oil, acquired and re-named Hydracrete by Associated Portland Cement Manufactures Ltd. She was purchased by Blue Circle Shipping Ltd in 1960. In 1963 James Contracting & Shipping acquired her, converted her, renamed her Bankstone and re-engined her with a seven cylinder N.V. Scheeps-en Werktuigbouw L. Smit & Zoonnew engine. Already managed by Westminster Dredging Ltd; her ownership was transferred to the newly formed Westminster Gravels Ltd in 1966 during whose ownership she suffered a serious fire which started in her accommodation. She was sent to be broken up at Grays’Yard in Essex on 13th December 1976


The 535grt Sand Tern was launched at the Appledore yard of P.K. Harris on 22nd May 1963 and completed by Bolson & Son in Poole who delivered her to South Coast Shipping in April 1964. Latterly she traded in the Bristol Channel and was laid up in Cardiff and Barry before arriving in Brugge under tow for breaking up on 2nd December 1998. The 181gt twin screw Eko was acquired about this time. Built in 1943 by J.S.Watson of Gainsborough as a Humber lighter she was converted to a sand dredger when acquired by Cole & Sons. Her ownership trasfered to the Amey Group on 31st December 1970.


The Eko ended her days in Ireland where she may be seen today in the river Suir, Waterford. How did she end up there ??


The following year, A.L. Cole purchased the Dutch built 364grt West Coaster. Completed in January 1938 for British Island Coasters she was purchased by General Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. 10th January 1944 who registered her new name of named her Mallard on 25th October 1950. The delay in re-naming her being due to wartime restrictions regarding changing the name of merchant vessels. When they acquired her on 17th February 1964 the ever thrifty Cole brothers simply removed the ‘A’ and called her Allard and converted her to a suction dredger. Cole’s new owners, the Amey Group, sold her in 1971/ 4? to the Kendall brothers of Portsmouth who traded her locally before sending her to Northfleet for breaking up in July 1984.

In December 1964 a partnership between Thomas J. Bowen, Freda Bowen and Peter D.Caines was formed. Captain “Tommy “ Bowen had been in aggregate dredging for some 20years, including time with South Coast Shipping as master of the Sand Runner. The partnership held few if any dredging licences but successfully dredged such areas as the Solent and Hamilton Banks for the licence holders, discharging at Cowes, Southampton & Portsmouth for the likes of Westminster Gravels & South Coast Shipping.

Sand Runner

Having experimented with the Producer in 1945, Penfold Holding’s interest in marine dredging began in earnest in 1963 when their company, Seabourne Aggregate Co Ltd., acquired the dredging interests of the London company Dale Sand & Gravel Co Ltd. which owned two self-propelled bottom dumping barges, the Lantyan and Lerryn. These two vessels were converted in 1964 to suction dredgers by James Taylor Ltd of Shoreham-on-Sea. The Lantyan, which started life as the 313gt coaster Empire Townsman, was renamed Pen Arun whilst the Lerryn, renamed Pen Adur, was originally the 322grt collier Empire Reaper. Both ships were Department of Trade certified and traded to ports between Weymouth and Newhaven.

Pen Arun in Solent circa 1967

The original name of the Pen Arun was changed from the Government owned 1943 built Empire Townsman to Roselyne by her new owners W.D.Tamlyn & Co Ltd of Plymouth in 1946. Lockett, Wilson Ltd of London briefly owned her in 1952. Fowey Harbour Commissioners purchased her in 1953 and renamed her Lantyan before selling her to Dale Sand & Gravel Co Ltd in 1957 who converted her to an aggregate dredger. 1964 found her owned by Seabourne Aggregates Co Ltd. A year later ownership passed to Amey Marine Ltd who gave her the name Pen Arun. Charles A. Brindle of Cowes owned her from 1972 till 1974 when Dale Sand & Gravel appeared as her owner again. It was Dale who changed her name to Sir Cedric before selling her on to a Martin J. Minter-Kemp of St Ives. Minter-Kemp and Roselyn Steamship Co Ltd of Padstow were both recorded as owning her in 1975. It was the Roselyon Shipping Co who owned her when, still named Sir Cedric, the thirty five year old lady was acquired by her twelfth and last known owners, the French company Société Private Derrien-Bichue, France.

Named Empire Reaper when launched at the Knottingly yard of J.Harker Ltd on 17th October 1942 the Pen Adur was named Browning in 1949 when sold to Anglo-Danubian Transport Co. Ltd. of London which named changed to Moreton Corbet when acquired by Kerton Shipping Co Ltd in 1949. Fowey Harbour Commissioners purchased her in 1953 and named her Lerryn. She entered the aggregate dredging trade in 1964 when Seabourne Aggregate Co Ltd purchased, converted and re-named her Pen Adur. Sold to South Coast Shipping in 1969, she traded as the Sand Wren until finally sold to Bowen & Caine Ltd, who named her Margaret Smith, being the maiden name of owner Tom Bowen’s wife Freda. In her 37th year, on 28th June 1978, as she approached Cowes on the Isle of Wight, she capsized but remained afloat. Towed to an Admiralty mooring off Yarmouth, she finally sank the following day. Gone but not forgotten, she is frequently visited by recreational divers and may be viewed at

The rebuilding of London after the Second World War provided an unprecedented opportunity for the building and related trades amongst which was J. Murphy & Sons who established Murphy’s Wharf on the banks of the River Thames at Charlton. Now owned by Tarmac, the wharf and its adjoining acreage is reputed to be the largest marine aggregate processing plant in Europe. In 1964, To supply the company’s needs, Murphy chartered the A A Raymond being, with a gross tonnage of 2313, the largest aggregate dredger operating around the UK coast at that time. The J in J. Murphy and Sons, John Murphy, died at the age of 96 on 7th May 2009. He was ranked in top 300 richest people in the UK

The twin screwed AA Raymond was built as a capital / maintenance suction dredger for the newly formed United States Corps of Engineers at the yard of Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. Chester, Pennsylvania where she was launched on 22nd March 1924 as the Dan C. Kingman. Her diesel electric engines were amongst the first to be found in ships. In 1936 whilst still serving with the Corps of Engineers she helped construct in San Francisco Bay the 400 acre “Treasure Island” near Alcatraz Island as the site of the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition. Her WWII service included the deepening of Manila Harbour. In 1954 she was purchased by the Thai Government who named her Sandon 3 and employed her dredging Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. It is understood that in the mid 1950’s Raymond International acquired the ship and named her A A Raymond after the company’s founder. In 1959 she underwent a $1 million re-fit prior to starting work in 1960 dredging the Bonny River Bar in Nigeria. Two months into the contract she broke a crankshaft and was laid up in Nigeria as it was decided repairs were impractical.

However, two enterprising Americans (Messrs Chick & DuChamp) who were then operating a fleet of fishing boats in Nigeria, purchased her and had her towed to Newhaven where she spent 1962 / 3 being re-engined with two14 ton Mirrless JVS12 ex minesweeper engines replacing her existing engines which weighed 180tons each.. A third Mirrless engine was used to drive the diesel electric dredge pump. The huge sheerlegs, once a familiar dock side sight at Newhaven, used during the AA Raymond’s conversion were never used again, having only been brought back into service by Chick & DuChamp who replaced the inoperable steam engine with a large Caterpillar compressor. With her owners registered as Orrisdale Steamship (I.O.M) Ltd and registered in Panama, she steamed to Flushing to have her dredge gear and hydraulic pump-out discharge system installed before going on charter to J.Murphy & Sons to supply their wharf at Charlton and/or Barking. With a reputation for being difficult to steer, in 1966 she was sold to Hall (Marine ) Co. Ltd. and in May 1971 laid up in the Thames before arriving in Bilbao to be broken up in July 1971.

On the 11th May 1964 British Dredging Ltd; saw their 1474gt ill fated Bowbelle launched at Ailsa Graig’s Troon yard which was to become forever linked with that of the Marchioness, being the passenger pleasure craft she was in collision with on the night of August 20th 1989. Fifty one of the mainly young passengers and crew on board the Marchioness lost their lives. The Bowbelle’s first visit the River Thames was not without incident either as, when on her maiden voyage publicity visit to the river, her anchor/s failed to fully release as she attempted to swing in the river, she narrowly missed colliding with Tower Pier. Her end was no happier as, working for her new owners with the name Bom Rei, she sank off the south west cost of Madeira on 23rd March 1996 after her dredge pipe caught on the seabed in heavy weather and ruptured her hull. Two crew members were lost. She now lies, broken amidships but almost upright, in 30 metres of water and, being popular diving site with photos of her watery grave published on the internet, she has yet to “rest in peace”.


The Bowbelle, Bowprince and Bowtrader were low air draft dredgers designed to supply British Dredging’s Nine Elms Wharf at Battersea, which required the dredgers to pass under Tower Bridge and the low bridges up to Nine Elms. In order to obtain the required low air draft, the height of superstructure of these ships was kept to a minimum and their masts were hinged so as to lay horizontal when transiting the River Thames bridges.


Launched at Ailsa Shipbuilders three months after her sister ship the Bowbelle, on 27th August, 1964, the 1485grt Bowprince was to continue with British dredging until sold in 1991 to Maderia based owners who named her Bom Principe.


South Coast Shipping’s last 500 tonner, the 540grt Sand Gull, was launched at Bolson’s shipyard on 24th September 1964. In 1969 the Sand Gull had the distinction of being the author’s first command and in 1978 being fitted out with spray booms in order to assist with the clean up following the Amoco Cadiz’s grounding on the Portsall Rocks of the Brittany coast. She ended her days when engaged in a beach replenishment contract near Ventnor on the Isle of Wight 1992. A jetty of sorts had been constructed to allow the dredger to come alongside so as to be discharged by a crawler cane. On the fateful day, the 12th August 1992, the Sand Gull’s hull was holed when she fell hard against the “jetty” in rough weather which caused her to sink as her engine room flooded. She was refloated and beached on August 16th before being refloated on the 18th and towed to Southampton. On 11th October 1992, the fine old lady arrived at Marchwood where she was subsequently broken up. A rough calculation shows that this little ship dredged over 2 million tons of aggregate during her 33 years of life.

Sand Gull - The author's first command!

Westminster Gravels’ 869gt Rockstone was launched as Thames Conservancy Hopper No 8 on 28th March 1907, which name was abbreviated to Hopper No 8 in 1909. Named Silverol in 1916 when requisitioned by the Admiralty for service as a bunkering barge in the RFA fleet, she returned to the Thames Conservancy in 1920. James Dredging, Towage & Transport named her James No 4.when they acquired her in 1927. The owning company name changed to James Contracting & Shipping in 1947 with Foremost Dredging of London owning her from 1952 until James Contracting took her back in 1964. Westminster Gravels Ltd acquired and named her Rockstone in 1967. Because, at 800hp, she was underpowered and difficult to manoeuvre for maintenance dredging she was converted to a static dredger for the marine aggregate trade in which she continued in until, at 70 years of age in March 1977, she was sent for breaking up at Grays Yard, Essex.



Built as a tanker in 1947 for National Benzole / Shell Mex, the 410grt Ben Hebden, was purchased by Seaborne Aggregates (P.E.Penfold) in 1965 and converted at Appledore to a 399grt suction dredger. Re-named Pen Itchen under which name she traded after being sold to Fleetwood Sand & Gravel Co. Ltd. in 1968 and until she was broken up by Mayer Newman & Co. Ltd. of Fleetwood in 1976.

Pen Itchen

Pen Itchen at Coles Yard , Cowes

Bowen & Caines’ first ship was the ex Shell-Mex & BP tanker Ben Olliver which had been built bin 1935 by the Rowhedge Iron Works Co. Ltd. in Essex and acquired by R.Slack of Hayling Island in 1965 who converted her to a grab dredger somewhat surprisingly sold her that same year to scrap merchant H. Pounds of Portsmouth who, equally surprisingly, promptly sold her on to Bowen & Caines in December of 1965. The 147grt Ben Olliver traded locally for the next four years until, in 1969, she was struck by lightening off Behampton & sank. Refloated and sold back to R.Slack, whilst under tow, she sank off Langstone Bar where she rests today and is a playground for recreational divers.

Ben Olliver, Viodon & Roway at Heavers' Langstone Yard

The 81mtr Bowfleet was the next ship to join the British Dredging fleet working out of the River Thames when she was launched at Ailsa Shipbuilders Ltd; on 16th May 1965. She appears to have led a trouble free life until, in her 20th year, she arrived at the Rochester yard of Romamet Ltd; on the 8th February 1985 to be broken up.



P.E.Penfold Ltd saw their next new build, the 787grt Pen Avon, launched at Appledore on 4th April 1966. Paul Penfold had a number of innovations introduced into her design including a small bulbous bow to reduce fuel costs and a venturi dredge pump system. Reportedly a “comfortable ship” she cost £250,000, included an owner’s suite, had a variable pitch propeller and was manned with a crew of eight. A not so successful innovation was the use of recently marketed Spate pumps, 12 or 16 of which were designed to operate together as the dredge pump. She could load 1200tonnes of aggregate in 3 hours and was re-named Arco Avon in 1974. In 1982 she was sold to Dutch owners DC Dredging BV and re-named Rio 3.

Pen Avon

Civil & Marine Ltd, one of the youngest aggregate dredging companies, was born of an idea discussed in a bar in Persia in 1948 by civil engineer Mike Uren and retired army Major John Hobbins who were working for consultant engineers Alexander Gibb & Partners.

In 1955 the company started trading from Maldon in Essex with the motorised barge Peterna, crewed by John Hobbins and his wife, transporting sand and gravel from the Essex riverside pits to wharves on the Thames & Medway where they were discharged by shore grab. The fleet of barges grew until, by the early 1960’s it included the 245gt, 1937 built Beverly Brook, the 244gt Wall Brook and the 171gt Fleurita.

The increasing environmental problems being encountered by the land based gravel pits and the perceived opportunities for supplying the London market encouraged the company to enter the marine aggregate dredging trade. In 1962/3 the Peterna with a caterpillar tracked grab on top of a cargo of aggregate filling her hold, spent six months taking samples from the sea bed which were tested for long term viability.

The Paterna was broken up at Horsens, Denmark in 1982 having had the distinction of taking the first crew out to the Mi Amigo [pirate radio ship Radio Atlanta / Radio Caroline South] when she arrived off the UK coast on 9th May 1964. The 1913 built Fleurita was overwhelmed in a storm on 29th January 1965 and remains on the seabed in the Thames Estuary. On 6th May 1956 the Wall Brook was in collision with the sailing vessel Fred Everard which was carrying a cargo of cement from Devon and which sank 8 miles off Ramsgate. The 1940 built Wall Brook was reportedly scuttled in March 1999.

With a 15 year contract signed in 1965 with Hall and Ham River Ltd, to supply 180,000 tonnes of material to a new wharf to be built at Northfleet and an existing wharf at River Road, Barking, C & M finally entered the aggregate dredging trade on 28th July 1966 with the launching at Charles Hill & Sons Bristol Yard of their 1574grt Cambrook. The Barking yard was at that time also being supplied by the AA Raymond It was during the building of the Cambrook, whilst on holiday in Spain, that John Hobbins saw a wire sculpture of a mermaid on the wall of a bar. Having taken a liking to it, he persuaded the owner to part with what became the company’s logo and funnel emblem.

The Cambrook’s innovative design allowed for only a hydraulic (wet) discharge via a 1000ft shore pipeline at Northfleet and a significantly shorter one at Barking. Being essentially a system for discharging sand it proved extremely unreliable when dealing with sea dredged aggregate. However, with the ship’s production much reduced for some five months whilst a redesigned system was installed as she continued to trade, a record discharge rate of 4900tph was eventually reached at Barking.

So, what started out as a potential disaster for the fledgling Civil & Marine the Cambrook became the cornerstone of the company’s future success with annual volumes of circa 650,000 tonnes (320 cargoes) being delivered, well above the Hall & Ham River contracted volumes. Hall & Ham River later became part of the RMC Group.

Built with twin variable pitch propellers, a bow thrust and probably the first aggregate dredger to trade with a Deep Load Line Certificate, at the end of the 1970’s the Cambrook was re-engined with the first two production engines of a new Blackstone (Mirrlees) design.

NOTE: Were the Tay sand boats operating with Load Line Exemptions before the Cambrook?

During her time with Civil & Marine the company used her as something of a floating research and development vehicle including the development of the first lined dredge pump a decade before the famous dredge engineers IHC Holland introduced their first double walled dredge pump. The Civil and Marine design used an inner pump casing and liners cast in chrome iron encased in a horizontally split fabricated mild steel outer housing. The innovation was a huge success with cast casings handling well over 2 million tonnes with no casing failures resulting in a huge reduction in downtime and a significant increase in availability and profitability.

In common with other aggregate dredging companies, who were all anxious to improve the on board screening capability of their ships such that the stone to sand ratio was as close to the 60% gravel 40% sand mix required for ready mixed concrete, between 1969 and 1971 the Cambrook underwent several redesigns and modifications to its launder system delivering material into the cargo hold.

Boiling boxes were introduced over the centre of the hold to kill the velocity of the incoming material and vibrating screen decks were installed. The vibrating screens proved unsuited to the harsh marine environment but the final successful design saw two large static screens decks feeding two launders discharging into the cargo hold. After eighteen years of sterling service Cambrook was sold to Bahrain Bulk Trade in 1984 and renamed Abu Faris. She was still trading in Bahrainian waters in December 2012.


British Dredging’s 1502grt low air draftBowsprite was launched at Troon on 15th November 1966 and was tragically lost on the night of 4th / 5th December 1988 when 15miles NW of Nieuwpoort, Belgium. Loaded and heading for shelter in the River Thames in force 9 westerly winds and very rough seas, she broke her back and split in two. The forward part quickly sank leaving the aft section afloat. Four of the crew of ten were lost.

Bowsprite Tower Bridge outward bound


Westminster Gravels Limited (known in the industry as ‘Gravels’) was formed on 30th September 1967 but its roots go back to the beginning of the 20th century through the dredging activities of Foremost Dredging Co.Ltd. and James Contracting & Shipping Co. Ltd. which company was acquired in 1954 by the Westminster Dredging Group (a Bos Kalis Westminster Group company). The signing and handing over of the cheque for the James shares was the last commercial deed that Mr E.D.Kalis performed before he died, aged 64, just a few weeks later. His nephew, Mr W. (Bill) Kalis was put in charge of the new operation with the Group’s aggregate dredging activities being placed in a separate company with the formation of “Gravels” in 1967. In 1971 Holland-America took a 50% stake in Westminster Gravels Ltd. Does it still hold a stake?


In 1968, with fleet wide production running at 1.3 million tonnes, Amey Marine acquired M.F.Horlock (dredging) Ltd who had a licence to dredge the River Stour from Harwich River Commissioners to improve the river’s navigation channels. The material, dredged using a Mohr & Federhaff, Ridinger and Rohr floating grab, being of a commercial quality, was loaded into motor barges and a couple of coasters, Beverly Brook & Wall Brook, for delivery to Ramsgate, Margate, Queensborough, Faversham, Rochester & Ipswich. The Pen Avon also started dredging the River Stour at this time, delivering her cargoes to both Calais and Dunkirk.

Pen Avon

Marinex Gravels Ltd were granted a dredging licence in the Humber region on 23rd July 1968 and Marinex Dredging Ltd was founded on 12th December 1972. Marinex Dredging Company Limited was originally owned by Associated Fisheries Ltd with George Wimpy Company later taking a part interest. The head office was in Buckingham Gate, London which, for file purposes, was named “Marinex II”. There never was a “Marinex I” which was explained by the company’s original Managing Director as being “The name of my yacht when the company returns a healthy profit”…he never did get his yacht.

The first dredging operations undertaken by the company were in Berwick-upon-Tweed Harbour by the Marinex III which was used as a pontoon dredger with a grab, hopper and grading plant. She was moored as for a conventional bucket-ladder maintenance dredger which allowed her to move herself within the harbour. Material was dredged by grab and deposited in the hopper which fed the grading plant where the aggregate was sorted into four sizes and discharged into the four “bins” in the hold of the MarinexIV the ex Norwegian Jovista. The graded material was taken by the Marinex IV from Berwick down the coast to be discharged at the company’s berth in Blyth.

Having been part of the Amey Group since the year before, in 1968 Penfold’s next new building, the 349grt Pen Taw, was launched at Goole Shipbuilders on 3rd January and re-named Arco Taw in 1974. Together with the Arco Tamar, the Arco Taw was originally used to work the shallow sand bars at the mouth of the Rivers Taw and Torridge into Appledore and Barnstaple where minimal water depths were found at all states of the tide.

Pen Taw

Chichester based John Heaver Ltd acquired the four dredgers, Debourne, Endsleigh, Viodon and Roway, of Parksway Aggregates Ltd in 1966?? and ordered a new building, the 968gt Chichester Cross, from Goole Shipbuilders Ltd; in the same year. Goole Shipbuilders had never constructed an aggregate dredger’s boiling box, the details of which were provided by Mostyn Bowles of British Dredging. British Dredging benefited from this generous act when they acquired the Chichester Cross after John Heaver sold his company in 1975 following his son’s decision not to take over from him. Re-named Bowcross, British Dredging traded her for 28 years before selling her 1999. Her new owners, R & R Marine Services (Cardiff) Ltd; re-named her Rita I. Possibly also owned by Hakas Fisheries she was named Captain Spyros in 2003 when acquired by Meltemi Navigation Co. Ltd who put her under the Tonga flag . Her name, if not her ownership, changed one last time as she arrived at Aliaga, Turkey for breaking up on 5th February 2003 under the name Kap Spir

Viodon and Endsleigh at Heavers' Wharf

Endsleigh (with Viodon?)

Chichester Cross dredging

Chichester Cross entering Littlehampton

In I968 the Amey Roadstone Corporation brought together, under the name Amey Marine Ltd : P.E.Penfold Ltd, Seaborne Aggregates Co. Ltd;, Ecolab & Sons, W.Woolaway & Sons Ltd and Test River Ballast Ltd, Ballast Deliveries and A.E.Gash . This last company held some Solent dredging licences and was reputed to be the first company ever to supply ready mixed cement. In 1972 Consolidated Goldfields acquired the Amey Corporation, Amalgamated Roadstone. The name Amey Marine was changed to A.R.C Marine Ltd in 1973 to ARC Marine in 1983, to Hanson Aggregates Marine in 1989. Heidelburg Cement of Germany acquired the Hanson Corporation in August 2007.

The independent company, Normandie Dredging & Shipping Co. Ltd., was formed by J.N.Callaghan in 1968 trading with the 1944 built ex-landing craft Normandie. Built in Lowestoft, the shallow drafted twin screw 306grt Normadie was used in the 1970 scheme to replenish the sand on Bournemouth beach. The project involved the 2961grt maintenance dredger Transmundum II which transported sand from the Pot Bank close to the Needles and discharged into the Normandie which reversed her dredge pump in order to “rainbow” the sand onto the beach. The five week venture was not a success. The Normandie was sold to Dredgers (C.I.) Ltd in August 1971 which company re-named her D.C.I.Perelle.

One Alan E.B. Jones of Waterlooville was the ninth owner of the 199grt Lady Sonia which he converted to a suction dredger in 1968. Originally named Apollinaris II and built by J.Meyers Shipbuilders in Holland, the Lady Sonia was acquired by Bowen & Caines in 1971 and sold on to J.A.Hayward of Bitterne the following year. She was subsequently laid up at Willment Yard on the River Itchen and sent to be broken up at Southampton in January 1977 at the age of forty eight.

Pounds Shipowning & Shipbreaking Ltd acquired the 1915 built Shell Mex 3 which had started life as the X.199 which was re-named Prawn in 1916 and converted to an oil and water carrier. Re-engined in 1957 with a 1947 built 5 cylinder Ruston & Hornsby main engine she was sold on to N.W Woods of Gosport in 1971 who converted her into an aggregate dredger. On 6th May 1974 she was holed and sank on the Winner Bank off Portsmouth. 1975 saw her broken up after being refloated.

Alan Jones of Waterlooville acquired and converted the 199gt Lady Sonia to a suction dredger in 1968. This much owned vessel started life as the Dutch 1929 built Apollinaris III. She was renamed Parkstone in 1937 by her then owners John Carter (Poole) Ltd., and re-engined her in 1948 by her new owners I.P.Langford (Shipping) Ltd of Sharpness. Sold to Benjn. Ackley & Son Ltd of Liverpool in 1952 she was named Lady Sonia by Thomas Watson(Shipping) Ltd; of Rochester when he acquired her in 1954. Sold again in 1961 to Intercon Coasters Ltd and in 1963 to H.W.Hardy (Mercantile) Ltd of London and to one P.Williams in 1966. She arrived in the aggregate dredging trade when acquired by Alan E.B. Jones in 1968 who converted her to an aggregate dredger. August 1971 found her under the ownership of Bowen & Caines who sold her to J.A.Hayward of Bitterne the following year. Having had at least ten owners, at the age of 48 this much used lady was subsequently laid up at Willment Yard on the River Itchen before going to be broken up in January 1977 at Southampton.


Launched at W. Doxford & Sons Pallion yard as the tanker British Defender on 2nd February 1950, when converted and renamed, the 129mtr long 5845grt El Flamingo remains the largest British flag aggregate dredger to have yet been operated in Northern European waters. Converted in 1969 and placed under the Monrovian flag, her ownership changed from Trustee Secretaries Ltd to Transworld Marine Trailers Inc in 1970 and to Marcon R.M.C. Ltd in 1972 at which time she reverted to the British flag. It is thought that her conversion was influenced by the possibility of the construction of Maplin Sands airport near Southend being given the green light. A remarkable ship which was designed to grade dredged material on board, being an idea which was no more successful than that of Paul Penfold’s on the Moderator 27 years earlier. Her conversion alongside at J. Murphy’s Charlton yard included a discharge conveyor belt which ran right through the officers’ saloon which, with a minimum of screening, was still in use as such. Her discharge facilities included bottom dumping doors. With frequent breakdowns coupled with the Government’s decision not to go ahead with Maplin Sands, she was laid up in London’s KG V Dock in 1978 from where she was sent to be broken up at Brugge on 10th February 1982.

El Flamingo

It is perhaps a little too easy to dismiss the El Flamingo as a white elephant as, whilst a number of the innovations included in her conversion over four decades ago were not repeated, others gave berth to technical advances which are found on the latest generation of aggregate dredgers. The following description of her “Shipboard Treatment Plant” examples the bold experimentation which characterised the industry in the 1960’s & 70’s

El Flamingo’s Shipboard Treatment Plant

Velocity box for receiving dredged material and discharge of excess water and fines. Retained material is fed simultaneously through two complete processing circuits.

Series of vibrating screens for classifying gravel in the minus 1.5 to plus 1/8th inch range, and for scalping off plus 1.5inch material, is included in each of the two circuits.

Watertight gates provide for 0ver-the-side discharge of sand. Gates are closed if sand is not retained.

If sand is kept, processing is accomplished by two sand banks of hydroclones, each composed of three 48inch or six 36inch units, the products of which are run through a sand classifier.

Two pairs of log-type classifiers in each circuit are used for clay removal and clean-up of gravel

Short conveyor belts and bucket elevators, each rated at about 300ft per min, are used throughout the processing system. Slurry pumps are used to move sand during the early stages of processing of sand which is retained.

A total of 12 bottom-discharging hoppers (total capacity in excess of 7000tons) provide storage of various sized products, normally gravel classified to a wide range of sizes in the minus 1.5inch to plus 1 1/8th inch. Also sand, if it is retained.

A total of six large conveyor belts are used for product handling, recycling and discharging. They include the following: [1] Two 42inchj reversible conveyor belt shuttles rated at 500ft per min and 2000 revolutions per hour for conveying sized products to storage hoppers.[2]Two 42inch hold conveyors rated at 400fpm and 1500rph for transferring sized products from bottom dumping storage hoppers to inclined conveyor belt. [3] One 48inch inclined conveyor belt of 17degrees slope rated at 500fpm and 2500rph for transfer of sized products directly to the over-the-side discharge belt or back into the system for re-cycling and blending [4] One 48inch over-the-side cargo discharge belt mounted on a swing-out boom rated at 500fpm and 2500rpm for off-loading cargo at shore discharge points.

Operation of this entire shipboard processing system[including treatment, handling, recycling and discharge] is controlled by only one man stationed at an advanced electronic display panel and control console centrally located near the wheelhouse. The control system also includes a band of television monitors mounted above the display panel which are coupled with up to 13 closed circuit television cameras position at strategic control points throughout the processing system.

She could also dredged to a depth of 120feet, took some 15hours to load 7000tons and had a crew of 36 “including a large number of maintenance crewmen such as greasers, welders, painters etc” being a manning level which most certainly did not stand the test of time.


Launched on 3rd March 1969 at Ailsa’s Troon shipyard, the 1592grt Bowtrader was traded by British Dredging for the next 23years before being sold and re-named Trader in 1992 by owners Seal Sands Maritime Ltd, Waterford, Bentrader in 1995 by Hawkins Navigation SA of Liberia and Kwintebank in 1996 by Ghent Dredging NV. She ended her days in Ghent where she arrived for breaking up on 20th December 2004.

Bowtrader inward bound passing under London Bridge on River Thames

Bowen & Caines acquired their next ship in 1969 when they purchased the 1944 Richards of Lowestoft built ex-Admiralty ammunition carrier Chattenden which had been anchored in Fareham Creek for sixteen years until sent to Harry Pounds’ yard in 1967. Converted and re-named the 302grt Mark Bowen, after Tommy Bowen’s son, she was to be a familiar vessel working in the Solent until sent to the breakers in 1978.

In 1969 Seaborne Aggregate’s purchased the 1955 Glasgow built hopper barge Laga II from Harry Pounds in Portsmouth, converted her to the 761grt aggregate dredger and named her Pen Yar which name was changed to Arco Yar in 1973. The Laga II was launched at Ferguson Brothers yard on 9th February 1953 and was sold to Kendall Bros. (Portsmouth) in 1980 who named her Kaibeyar. She ended her days at the Bruges breaker’s yard of J.Bakker & Zn where she arrived on 21st February 1992.

1969 also saw the completion of the innovative Sand Swift at Bolson’s shipyard for South Coast Shipping. The Sand Swift’s design included a forward facing dredge pipe which was designed to work the very small dredging area of “Area A” SE of The Needles. The dredge pipe arrangement worked well on Area A but was a disadvantage compared with the aft facing dredge pipes used by conventional dredgers when trail dredging on larger areas. The author well remembers the problems of dredging a cargo on the Shipwash area off Harwich with the Sand Swift and her sister ship Sand Swan. The forward facing dredged pipe required these ships to dredge at anchor which necessarily caused them to create deep holes. This was unlike dredgers with the normal aft facing dredge pipes which lifted the aggregate from the surface of the seabed whilst steaming slowly ahead. With contaminating London clay never far beneath the seabed, one laborious method of dredging the Sand Swift & Sand Swan was to shorten the anchor cable and dredge as the ship was carried astern by the tide allowing the dredge pipe, which didn’t have a drag-head fitted, to be dragged over the surface of the seabed.

The Sand Swift’s Kalvatex Marine dredge controls were state-of-the-art “push button” and she had the company’s (industry’s??) first unmanned engine room. She was alongside Poole quay on a fine summer’s day when her dredge pipe was first launched over the side. All went well until, with the pipe suspended above the surface of the water, the welding of her forward gantry ripped apart causing the dredge pipe to fall into the dock with a spectacular splash. The many spectators on the quay gave a rousing cheer and a round of applause. The Sand Swift was sold to an Azores based company and re-named Atlantiareia in 2004.

The Sand Swift’s sister ship, Sand Swan, was launched on 3rd April 1969 and completed March 1970. Her sea trials off the Isle of Wight went badly wrong when her hull was split in way of her dredge pump which, fortunately, was enclosed in a watertight space allowing the flooding to be contained. Five years later, on 4th January 1975, she went aground and flooded her engine room on the Brittany coast and required four months of extensive repairs which were carried at Brigham & Cowen’s South Shields’ yard. Later in life she was employed in the Mersey by South Coast Shipping’s sister company, Norwest Sand & Ballast, until 2009 when she was laid up with an asking price £784,000.

By the end of the 1960’s the southern North Sea was attracting an increasing number of the aggregate dredging companies both as a source of material and as an outlet for their product on both side of the North Sea. With the trade increasing numbers of berths with processing plants were being to be established on the near continent and in the Rivers Thames, Medway, Orwell, Stour & Swale requiring dredgers suited to this expanded trading area.

Late 1960’s

In the late 1960’s James Dredging’s bottom dumping James No 95 was fitted with Hydrojet equipment for prospecting which she carried out along the South Coast, in Liverpool Bay, in Harwich Harbour and off Dublin. She also went to the Baltic where she was used to identify suitable material for the building of Copenhagen Airport. Living conditions on the James No 95 saw all crew members, including the captain, living in the forecastle and paying the cook £1.50 per week for their food.

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