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The following photos are of dredgers used at Swansea & Port Talbot

Bucket dredger ‘Bruce’, built in 1905, pictured at Riverside Wharf, Swansea in 1924


Bucket dredger ‘David Davies’, built in 1925, with the hoppers
‘Foremost VII’ and ‘Foremost 27’ alongside


‘Foremost VI’, one of a series of hoppers built in the 1920’s/1930’s


Bucket dredger ‘Abertawe’, built in 1947, pictured in the Prince of Wales Dock, Swansea
(photograph courtesy of Mr. Bernard Humphreys)

Bucket dredger ‘Abertawe’, built in 1947, pictured in Swansea Bay.


Grab dredger ‘Kenfig’, built in 1954


Grab dredger ‘Rhymney’, built in 1960, on C Shed Wharf.


Suction dredger ‘Afan’, built in 1961


The following article on the ‘Afan’ is an extract from The Eagle comic
dated 17th November 1962

 There is always work for dredgers. Shifting sands and mudbanks can threaten the safe  navigation of ships in river estuaries and in the approaches to many ports and harbours. Channels have to be cleared at regular intervals and the spoil – mud or sand – dumped out at sea where it is out of harm’s way.
        One of the latest suction dredgers is the twin–screw diesel electric Afan, built in the early 60’s by Richard Dunston Ltd. She works out of Cardiff, and her duties are to keep clear the approaches to the ports of Swansea and Port Talbot.
        She has two large electrically driven pumps, each of which sucks up the spoil from the sea bed through two trailer suction pipes that are lowered either side of the vessel. Most of the water brought up with the spoil is then separated in a distribution box and returned overboard, leaving the solid matter to be fed into the ship’s two large hoppers. This is later dumped at sea through the doors at the bottom of the hoppers.
        Two 920 h.p. diesel engines drive the generators which supply power to the propulsion motors and the suction pump motors. All the generators and the motors were built in the UK by Brush Electrical Engineering.
This drawing was produced by L. Ashwell Wood. Several attempts have been made by ourselves and others to establish copyright ownership, but without success. We therefore trust that the copyright owner, should any exist, will not object to us showing the drawing on our site.
Key to Numbered Parts
 ( 1 ) Suction nozzle on sea bed. (2) Starboard trailer suction pipe; another is on the port side (not shown). (3) Flexible joints. (4) Pipe joint which is lowered over the ship's side to connect with the suction valve and pump. (5) Stone separating box (6) and (7) Centrifugal suction pumps. (8) 250 h.p. pump motors. (9) Davit for lowering and raising the trailer suction pipe. These pipes are stowed on deck when not in use. (10) Discharge pipes to distribution box. (11) Forward hydraulic ram for operating hopper door. (12) Port trailer suction pipe davit. (13) Sluice valves, one either side, discharge spoil into forward hopper. (14) Forward hopper being filled. (15) Separated water being discharged overboard. (16) Davit for stowing trailer pipes on deck. (17) Port sluice valves. (18) Spoil distribution box to all six valves. (19) Starboard sluice valve to rear hopper (closed). (20) Trays for distributing spoil into hopper. (21) Chain pulleys for hopper doors. (22) Rear hopper; each hopper has a 500 cubic yard capacity. (23) Side buoyancy space. (24) Hopper discharge doors — six to each hopper. (25) Hydraulic ram for operating hopper doors. (26) and (27) Pumps, sluice valves, hopper door controls. All dredging operations are remote-controlled from the bridge, as is the propulsion machinery. (28) Streamlined funnel, with exhausts from engine-room. (29) Engine-room hatch and ventilator. (30) 16-ft. aluminium lifeboat. (31) Crew's accommodation. (32) Oil fuel bunker. (33) 920 h.p. Ruston Hornsby Diesel engines (port and starboard). (34) Propulsion generator. (35) Auxiliary lighting Generator. (36) Suction pump generator. (37) Circulation pumps. (38) Auxiliary Diesel generator. (39) and (40) 610 h.p. propulsion motors, driving the twin propellers. (41) Reduction gearbox. (42) starboard propeller. (43) Balanced rudder. (44) Stern anchor. (45) Anchor winch. (46) 12-ft. work boat.
Illustration showing the hopper’s bottom discharge doors
Suction dredger ‘Baglan’, built in 1966
Grab dredger ‘Ogmore’, built in 1967
Grab dredger ‘Aberavon’, built in 1969, pictured in Port Talbot Tidal Harbour
Suction dredger ‘Welsh Bay’, built in 1971, pictured alongside Port Talbot Harbour Jetty
Bed-leveller tug ‘Flat Holm’, built in 1976
Suction dredger ‘Swansea Bay’, built in 1966 as ‘Tees Bay’ and acquired by BTDB in 1979
Suction dredger ‘Dolphin’, later named ‘Welsh Dolphin’, built in 1984
Suction dredger ‘Bluefin’, built in 1997, pictured in the River Afan, Port Talbot

Paying out the Dredgermen

 Back in the 1960’s, whenever the South Wales dredging fleet was working in Swansea bay, Thursday was a day that I particularly dreaded – especially if the weather was foul, as it so often was. I was working in the Dock Cashier’s department at the time, and there was always a chance that I would be the unlucky one selected on the day to pay out the dredging crews.

       In those days health and safety was not much of an issue, and the protective clothing provided for this task was nothing more than a large black sou’wester and a pair of one-size-fits-all wellington boots. The boots were at least three sizes too big for me and the sou’wester would come down over my eyes but, despite my protestations, the Dock Cashier Horace Balsdon was unrelenting in his insistence that these items must be worn at all times.

 So, suitably attired and carrying a battered old wooden box containing the pay packets of the various dredging crews, I would be met outside the Harbour Office by Capt. Peter Armstrong in his little blue BTDB van and transported amid a cloud of blue pipe-smoke to the approach jetty at the Kings Dock Locks, where one of the dredgers would eventually come alongside to pick us up.

 Then off we would go, out into the channel no matter how foul the weather, paying out the crew of that particular dredger as we went. So far so good. But to pay the crews of the other dredgers working in the bay involved the somewhat hazardous activity of leaping from ship to ship which, given the encumbrance of the over-sized wellies, sou’wester-restricted vision and a large wooden box in one hand, was no mean feat by anyone’s standards.

 On such occasions I must say that Capt. Armstrong was a great comfort. He would jump effortlessly onto the next ship – as old sailors do – and stand there, pipe in one hand, waiting for the two heaving decks to meet each other and shout in his soft west-country burr “jump…… now!”, whilst casually positioning himself ready to catch hold of me as I landed. However, his overall demeanour was so laid-back that I’m sure that if I were to miss the deck completely and plunge helplessly into the sea, he would probably just shrug his shoulders, puff on his pipe and go down below to enjoy a nice hot cup of tea. Happy days!

 Ian Rogerson


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