Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Abels Shipbuilders

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1980 Founded by David Abels, the company took over part of the Albion Dockyard formerly occupied by Charles Hill and Sons who went out of business in 1977. The site includes the large covered dry dock originally built by Hilhouse in 1820, and has a capacity of 350 tonnes.

The company builds a wide variety of vessels up to 250 tonnes and 25 m (82 ft) in length in steel and aluminium, typically tugs, passenger and Roll-on/roll-off ferries, survey vessels, launches and work boats. Around 80% of orders are for UK customers although recently the company delivered aluminium patrol and ambulance boats to Nigeria.

The company built Pero's Bridge (the horned foot bridge) which opened in 1999.

Recent work includes a 180 tonne, 250 passenger catamaran for Clyde Marine and the rebuild of the Medway Queen for the Medway Queen Preservation Society. Ferries

The company has been building ferries since at least 1985, when the 60 passenger Island Princess was delivered to Scottish owners, and she still operates as a whale watching boat off the Isle of Mull. Several further ferry orders followed including the 29-metre (95 ft) Roll-on/roll-off ferry Eynhallow for Orkney Ferries in 1987, and the 19-metre (62 ft) Maid of the Forth for the Forth River in 1989.

In 2001 Abels secured a contract to build a twin deck ferry for the Portsmouth Harbour Ferry Company. Shortly afterwards the company was awarded a follow-on contract for a second ferry. The first ship, Spirit of Gosport was delivered successfully, but the second, Spirit of Portsmouth was only partially constructed when the customer cancelled the order.

The latest ferry built is the Clyde Clipper for Clyde Marine and delivered in July 2009. She is a 125grt catamaran or 28 m (92 ft) length and 11 m (36 ft) beam and able to carry up to 250 passengers. Powered is supplied by two Doosan diesel engines and the vessel has a speed of around 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)

In the lates 1980s, Abels began to construct a series of survey vessels for the UK Environment Agency. Vigilance was the first of four similar vessels and delivered by David Abels for work in the Bristol Channel in 1990. The follow on ships constructed were the Sea Vigil based on the South Coast, Coastal Guardian for the Mersey and Water Guardian, based on the North East Coast, but spent some time in the Bristol Channel while Plymouth University chartered the Vigilance. Ranging from 42 to 71 tonnes, and 15.8 to 16.5 m (52 to 54 ft) in length, they are 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) ships operated by the Agency's National Marine Service. Their complement includes scientists and each are fitted for survey activities such as taking seabed samples, trawling and water sampling as methods to monitor the area's coastline, including use of Meteorological sea surface temperature equipment on a tow fish when required.

2016 Ceased trading.

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