THIS WEEK IN 1978: First oil skimmer to take off in dockyard

An experimental model of the Oleanic 50 oil skimmer being demonstrated in the Solent in September 1976
An experimental model of the Oleanic 50 oil skimmer being demonstrated in the Solent in September 1976
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Portsmouth Dockyard was to start work on the construction of the first of six oil skimmers, the brainchild of an Emsworth naval officer, which would help in the battle against sea pollution.

The skimmers, called Oleanic 50s, were to be stationed in the naval bases at Portsmouth, Portland, Plymouth, Clyde, Rosyth and Invergordon.

Lt-Commander Geoffrey Teasdale, RN, the inventor of the system said: ‘The five-ton skimmers are portable and could be quickly transported to one place to deal with a major oil spillage.

‘Although they are designed for inshore use in sheltered waters, they would be extremely useful offshore in calm water in a Pacific Glory situation.’

The prototype skimmer would cost £75,000 with a £45,000 outlay for each of the following five, but would potentially save millions for the oil industry and taxpayer.

The MoD’s decision to go ahead with the skimmer development delighted Lt-Commander Teasdale, who spent four years working on the system when he was assistant captain of the Port in Portsmouth Naval Base.