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19th January 2021



Ainscough Crane Hire recently demonstrated its nautical prowess by working with Mitchell Demolition Ltd to lift a historic vessel at the Albert Edward Dock in North Shields.

The Earl of Zetland was built in 1939 as a passenger vessel and was a steel hull vessel registered as one of the UK’s National Historic Ships.

The ship was deployed during World War Two during which she travelled over 100,000 miles and carried approximately 600,000 servicemen to and from the Orkney Islands. The vessel is also believed to be one of many small ships involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk.

The vessel was subsequently converted into a diving support vessel. This was her main use until 1982 when she was deemed no longer seaworthy and then adapted into a restaurant ship on the River Thames near Embankment. In 1998, the ship was moored in her final home of Albert Edward Dock where she was again used as a floating restaurant.

However, over recent years it had become increasingly difficult to maintain the ship, meaning it was no longer a suitable location for a restaurant. The current owner of the vessel decided the time was right to bring the vessel’s amazing journey to an end.

In October of last year, an eight-week programme of work began on dismantling the vessel. Mitchell Demolition Ltd, which has specialised knowledge in ship breaking and all aspects of demolition, was appointed by BoatFolk, owners of the Royal Quays Marina in which the vessel was located, to undertake the work.

Such jobs usually involve the vessel being broken in a dry dock or slipway – however, this was not a possibility in this case as there were no appropriate facilities in the marina.

A further challenge was that the vessel was trapped inside the confines of the marina having been boxed in when the lock gates were reduced some years ago.

In advance of the lift, Mitchell Demolition Ltd stripped the interior, asbestos and oils from the vessel then gas cut the steel frame into manageable pieces before lifting the pieces out one by one to slowly reduce the vessel to a hollow barge.

Mitchell Demolition Ltd enlisted Ainscough Crane Hire to undertake the final lift of the vessel which had an overall length of 48.0m and 9.0m. The site visit and RAMS was prepared by Heavy Cranes technical manager Graham Lindley who advised that the safest approach would be a tandem lift incorporating two 500t cranes.

The Earl of Zetland was lifted precisely by the two cranes between surrounding lampposts before being laid to rest on wasteland for scrapping.

Ainscough’s team comprised lift supervisor John Dey, crane operators Steve Kennedy, John Davies, Sean Mason and James Laird while Slinger/Signallers were Josh Waldron and Stephen Walker.

Scott Hawes, area sales manager, Ainscough Crane Hire said: “The Earl of Zetland was a vessel with a proud history, and after many years of service in a range of areas – from playing a role in World War Two to being a popular restaurant – we were happy to work with Mitchell Demolition to give her a dignified, and most importantly, safe, send-off. It’s for that reason we chose to go with the tandem use of two 500t cranes, which was the safest possible way to complete this lift.”

John Mitchell, managing director at Mitchell Demolition Ltd, said: “It was paramount to us that this operation was completed in an efficient, secure and most importantly safe manner that showed respect to such a historic vessel. We felt so much happier to use an experienced crane operator with the reputation of Ainscough – they didn’t disappoint and the lift went as planned with no complications. We wouldn’t hesitate in using them again.”

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