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Marine / New landing craft for BK Marine

Toplander skipper Ben Hicks and BK Marine MD Gordon Williamson. Photo: P. Johnson/Shetland News.

BK MARINE has strengthened its fleet of workboats by leasing a 22m long Meercat landing craft from the south coast of England boatyard.

BK Marine intends using the Toplander in conjunction with a Johnson Marine Mekon cage cleaner, which is now a commonplace way of cleaning cages in Norway, according to BK Marine managing director Gordon Williamson.

Williamson hopes that the method, which involves hoisting the cage atop the floating cleaner, which then works its way around the cage cleaning the pipes with rotating jets, is eagerly adopted in Shetland.

Toplander prior to setting sail for Shetland. Photo: Meercat.

BK Marine bought another Meercat workboat, the 18m long Marjorie, in 2017, and had no hesitation returning to the Meercat yard, having sold the smaller workboat Bagheera, which had been with the firm since it was set up in 2006.

Williamson said: “We have been so impressed with BK Marjorie that despite considering purchasing another identical vessel, the leasing of the 22m multirole landing craft means she can commence operations for us straight away with our new and innovative cage cleaning equipment, keeping both us and our clients very happy.”

The Meercat MRV22m Toplander was originally purchased by Topbond PLC Group to support their marine and civil contracting works, and support the continuing expansion of their marine portfolio.

Toplander’s skipper Ben Hicks said he was very pleased with the way the new boat had handled some fairly tough weather on the way home through the English Channel and Irish Sea, stopping for fuel at Arklow and Kinlochbervie on the way.

He added: “Toplander will greatly enhance our fleet due to her versatility. She handles extremely well and the landing craft capabilities of the bow door are perfect for access, plus the generous deck space accommodates a range of cargo.”

Topbond’s MD, Glenn Springett said: “We are delighted that BK Marine has decided to return to the Meercat marque once again. The Meercat MRV (multirole vessel) is unique and epitomises the incredible versatility of these workboats.”

Williamson added: “There are a lot of other things we can do with the boat, for example running stuff to the isles. There should be plenty uses for her, for sure.”

Toplander will probably tackle a couple of maintenance jobs before commencing cage cleaning work.

The Mekon cage cleaner. Photo: P. Johnson/Shetland News.

Williamson said that a clear benefit of the Mekon system is that it involves no overhead loads, the cage sitting atop the rollers of the floating device.

At present the Mekon unit is powered by a 600hp Scania engine in a unit on the Toplander’s deck, though in future the Mekon might be powered by the ship’s own systems.

In addition to the two Meercat boats, BK Marine has the old Papa Stour ferry Koada and the cruiser Isabella for hire. The latter vessel is handy for fishing charters or for people who want to get to their destination quickly.

“Surveyors, nurses, we have had all kinds [on the Isabella], we have even had funeral parties in and out. She is a good, stable vessel.”

Recently she was involved in the attempted salvage of the Coelliera on the Ve Skerries.