Maritime Tales - Vital Support

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Model boat

Seaforth Conqueror - image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo


I had several toy boats as a child ranging from wooden yachts to a plastic submarine that fired red torpedoes.


These paled into insignificance with the huge model sailing ship my friend treasured – it was kept in the bath. I can see it now with three masts towering above the soap dish.


I think they used to put it on the model yacht lake at Liverpool’s Newsham Park. I haven’t seen anyone use this pond for boats recently but there are plenty of fishermen.


This model (pictured) reminds me of a plastic clockwork motor boat I had about 1957. On a beach I wound it up, let it go and it never came back – I forgot to set the rudder to make it return.


The offshore oil and gas industries grew from small beginnings in Victorian times, gradually developing into the sophisticated systems that are widespread today.


Support vessels have developed in tandem with the growth of the industry. They provide vital assistance to enable the process of extracting oil and gas from the seabed to run smoothly.


The first submerged oil wells were created about 1891 in the United States. Five years or so later the first salt water oil wells were drilled under the Santa Barbara Channel in California.


In later years wells were drilled in tidal zones and by the 1920s concrete platforms were being used in Venezuela. In 1923 oil was extracted from the bed of the Caspian Sea using an artificial island.


Ten years later steel barges were being utilised to drill in the Gulf of Mexico. An offshore drilling platform came on stream in 1937 standing in just 14 ft of water off the coast of Louisiana. By the end of the 1940s platforms were operating out of sight of land.


Modern offshore drilling methods were largely perfected in the 1960s as oil companies moved into deeper and deeper water to reach fields.


Britain started its major offshore oil and gas industries in the 1970s with the North Sea and Morecambe Bay becoming prominent.


On display at Merseyside Maritime Museum is a 1:100 exhibition model of the Seaforth Conqueror, a powerful Offshore Support Vessel (OSV), built in Aberdeen in 1976.


The 224 ft long Seaforth Conqueror was originally used as an anchor handling vessel for North Sea rigs. In 1987 Seaforth Conqueror was sold to Norwegian operators and two years later re-sold to British owners Toisa Ltd (Sealion Shipping) of Farnham, Surrey.


Under her new name Toisa Conqueror, she spent several more years in the North Sea and was scrapped in Mexico in 1999.


A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents and bookshops.