#DryDocking – A replica 19th century famine emigrant tallship built to retrace Irish-north American history, Jeanie Johnston also made her own mark in Dublin Port yesterday as the final ship to use the capital’s last graving drydock, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Following the float-out of Jeanie Johnston from the largest dry-dock in the State at 200m long, the barque’s departure ended another era in Irish maritime industrial heritage. The dry-dock's outer caisson gate was opened for the 301 gross tonnage vessel to ease along to the adjoining Lead-In Jetty.
As the name of this berth suggests, this will no longer be required as since 1957 (opening of graving dock No.2) ships would use this berth in preparation prior to passing through the caisson gate.
In the case of this historic occasion, Jeanie Johnston lay alongside the jetty awaiting tugs to tow the 47m (154ft) overall barque out of Alexandra Basin. The drydocking was to facilitate contractors carrying out planned maintenance. Work however notably remained to be completed towards the stern with final timbers to be put in place to cover exposed timber framework.
As reported in the The Irish Times today, Micheál Ó Cionna, who manages the Jeanie Johnston as a tourist attraction and museum, said the ship would return to its berth with Dublin Port tug assistance and would re-open later this week.
According to the visitor attraction website, the tallship is to reopen this Friday.
Asides this structural area of incompleted work, Jeanie Johnston emerged gleaming with fresh paint on the barque’s distinctive smart black and white hull scheme.
The closure of the dry dock is due to Dublin Port Company’s Masterplan (Review) which includes infilling the drydock. This is to increase more quay space as part of a major €230m Alexandra Basin Redevelopment ABR project. The project is phase one of an ambitious plan to permit considerably larger deep-draft cargoships and cruise liners to enter the port. In addition the works are to increase capacity requiring the new port infrastructure.
As Afloat reported in April 2016, the facility closed having been leased to Dublin Graving Docks Ltd. The port company terminated the lease and as alluded required the drydock site for the ABR project. The final chapter in shiprepair and maintenance in the capital however as it transpired involved Jeanie Johnston which after dry-docking was towed back on the Liffey yesterday afternoon.
The tallship is not at her usual berth along Custom House Quay nearer the city-centre. In the meantime, Jeanie Johnston is berthed upriver beyond the Tom Clarke toll ship-lift bridge. This followed a tow from the dry-dock by the port’s owned tug sisters, Beaufort and Shackleton. The crew's demonstrated skilful manoeuvres despite strong winds to edge the tallship gingerly to quayside.