DISCOVER Magazine #7

New Shoalbuster scores on multiple counts

Published in category: Harbour & Terminal


Bristol Port Company

Christopher Jones
Deputy Haven Master
Bristol Port Company

The Bristol Port Company recently took delivery of a Damen Shoalbuster 2308s. Modified with several customised options, the vessel will be able to take on a multifunctional role that includes plough dredging, towing, pilotage and survey duties, says the port’s Deputy Haven Master Christopher Jones. What’s more, performing multiple tasks in-house will lead to financial savings.

As the UK’s most centrally-located deep sea port (more than 65% of the UK population lives within a 250 kilometre radius) Bristol holds a strategic position in British sea trade. Port operations are owned and managed by the Bristol Port Company, which was formed in 1991 after the privatisation of the local authorityowned Port of Bristol. Since that time there has been a substantial amount of capital investment to expand and improve the port’s shipping, distribution and logistics services. The most recent example of this investment is a new Damen Shoalbuster 2308s called Graham Robertson.

Although the Graham Robertson is the Bristol Port Company’s first Damen vessel, they had previous experience with Damen’s Shoalbusters from earlier plough dredging trials. “The Shoalbuster’s flexiblity was well proven during these trials and our thoughts quickly turned to customising a 2308 to become not only a plough dredger but multipurpose port craft,” comments Mr Jones. “Given the positive results of the trials, it was a natural conclusion to approach Damen. We contacted a number of other European yards, but no other could offer the delivery time and proven track record that Damen could.”

Multi-role specs

As is the situation with many ports that have ambitions for growth, the Bristol Port Company’s requirements for their new vessel were diverse. “A truly multipurpose port craft was a strict requirement when finalising the vessel’s specification,” he continues. Taking top position on the Graham Robertson’s work sheet will be plough dredging activities. To this end, the 23-metre long vessel is equipped with an aftmounted A-frame. “Being able to plough dredge will ensure the maximum available depth of water can be maintained within the dock.”


The vessel’s other modifications reflect the Bristol Port Company’s all-round capacity, namely its in-house Conservancy Department. To this end, the adaptable design of the Shoalbuster 2308S allowed the installation of various extra equipment. “The dynamic nature of the Severn Estuary means that we have to perform regular surveys. Therefore, provision was made for fitting of a multi-beam sonar in the moonpool located in the bow of the vessel. Meeting the port’s Conservancy requirements will also mean the vessel will undertake some buoy maintenance and installation work – for this her hydraulic deck crane will prove invaluable.”

Economic benefits

“And, as a competent harbour authority, we also operate a pilot boat vessel, stationed 26 miles [41km] away near the pilot boarding area. However, from time to time there are pilot boarding or clearing requirements within the port so the decision was made to allow the vessel to undertake these duties.” In response, the construction contract also included a dismountable pilotage platform for these occasional piloting tasks.

Construction of the Bristol Port Company’s new Shoalbuster took place at Damen Shipyards Hardinxveld, in the Netherlands – who delivered the finished vessel just 15 weeks after contract signing. “We made regular visits to the yard, and it was during the construction phase that we took the opportunity to enhance our fire response capability by installing a single 200 m3 per hour monitor.”

Looking at the whole package that the Graham Robertson offers, it is quite straightforward to see the economic potential of such a versatile vessel. “Introducing such a multipurpose vessel will allow the port to greatly increase the level of work it can undertake in-house. This will lead to financial savings,” concludes Mr Jones.

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