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Another Tanker Call to Dun Laoghaire Harbour By 'Blackrock' But of 30 Years Ago!

28th April 2019
Another chapter in Dun Laoghaire Harbour's rich maritime history involved the arrival of tanker Blackrock (on 24th April 1989). The then brand new ship was 'dressed overall' and is seen approaching the East Pier jetty (sadly no longer used by ships). The presence in the harbour of a tanker is no doubt rare but added to the event was a naming ceremony to christen the ship after the nearby local coastal town of Blackrock, Co. Dublin.  Note the lighthouses were then painted in white, but now the respective lanterns of each pier-head have paint applied in green (starboard) for the West Pier and red (port) for the East Pier. Another chapter in Dun Laoghaire Harbour's rich maritime history involved the arrival of tanker Blackrock (on 24th April 1989). The then brand new ship was 'dressed overall' and is seen approaching the East Pier jetty (sadly no longer used by ships). The presence in the harbour of a tanker is no doubt rare but added to the event was a naming ceremony to christen the ship after the nearby local coastal town of Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Note the lighthouses were then painted in white, but now the respective lanterns of each pier-head have paint applied in green (starboard) for the West Pier and red (port) for the East Pier. Photo: Jehan Ashmore

#dublinbay - The recent rare call of tanker Thun Gemini to Dun Laoghaire Harbour for maintenance evoked memories of another such ship type to the port that took place 30 years ago this month, writes Jehan Ashmore.

On that occasion the arrival of a tanker to Dun Laoghaire Harbour in late April 1989 was far more notable, given the vessel was in port for a very different reason. So why the call of a UK based tanker operator to Dun Laoghaire as the harbour does not feature an oil terminal?

The clue lies in the name of the tanker, Blackrock and then a brand new ship. The 2,675 dwt oil products tanker along with Brabourne, leadship of a pair were built by Cochrane Shipbuilders of Selby, Yorkshire for London based shipping operator, Bowker & King (both shipyard and operator no longer in business). The Woolwich based shipping company on the banks of the Thames near Greenwich, had a naming system where their short-sea tankers were named after UK coastal locations and villages some inland.

This naming theme however was based specifically to places beginning with the letter 'B'. It was pleasing that B&K acknowledged an Irish placename though Blackrock became the first and only member of the fleet to be named with an Irish geographical connection.

Two days before the ship's big day, Blackrock arrived to anchor off Dun Laoghaire in Dublin Bay, having sailed from Milford Haven. The south Wales port is currently the UK’s top energy port  handling seaborne trade in oil and gas. The Pembrokeshire port is where Thun Gemini returned last week having completed maintenance duties in Dun Laoghaire. In addition crew carried out exercises in launching the tanker's stern-mounted free-fall lifeboat. This echoed memories of Blackrock's three-day visit in the harbour as the ship was equipped with this type of life-boat.

As a newbuild, Blackrock's presence at anchor off Scotsmans Bay was noted with considerable interest and accordingly was recorded in a personal ship movements log. The ship's subsequent call to the harbour, spurned a trip to the port that led to a request to board the tanker which was kindly granted by the crew in advance of the naming ceremony.

The boarding afforded a unique opportunity to talk to the crew who were clearly proud of their new ship. In addition to thread along the pristine red painted oil cargo deck to the bow and look back at the 'Selby' bridge, an in-house design of the shipyard which built a vessel which overall is aesthetically pleasing.

The log entry for Monday, 25th April was the most significant date and most memorable as on that day the naming ceremony took place by the ship's patron, Máire Anne Geoghegan-Quinn. The then Minister of State, christened the ship with the customary bottle of champagne smashed against the bow. The official event was attended by dignatories including B&K's managing director, Mr. Alan Petrie.

Other B&K tankers recalled regularly using Dublin Port included Bardsey. This 1,767 dwt tanker took its name after the Bardsey Island off the Llŷn Peninsula. This finger of land extends 30 miles into the Irish Sea from north-west Wales and south-west of Holyhead off the Isle of Anglesey.

On the day following the christening ceremony, Blackrock departed Dun Laoghaire into Dublin Bay where fittingly sister Brabourne was at anchorage. In addition was anchored Bardsey which soon followed Blackrock which had proceeded southward. 

Published in Dublin Bay
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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