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INNOVATION WATCH - An appetite for oil

The Gobbler boat’s compact and lightweight dimensions coupled with complex oil-skimming technology provide asafer and more effective way of containing and cleaning up oil spills, both in harbour and at sea.

The idea for the Gobbler boat, an innovative, oil-spill retrieval vessel, was conceived in 2009 by Paul and Simon Jauncey, a father and son team from Portsmouth. They wanted to produce a cost-effective, high quality vessel that would be able to deal with the multiple scenarios resulting from oil spills. However, their goal is to not only deal with oil pollution within water, but also begin repairing river banks, land masses and vegetation affected by the pollution.

The Gobbler boat is ocean certified for offshore spills and can be installed on commercial shipping vessels but its size – 8.85 metres in length and a 450 millimetred raught – means that it can easily access shallow rivers and lakes, something that other oil-spill recovery vessels can find difficult. Research identified that these sorts of waterways often have serious oil pollution that has accumulated unaddressed for decades, especially in developing countries, including the Jaunceys’ first main target, Nigeria.

To recover oil, the vessel carries a heavy duty, aluminium oil skimmer that has two interchangeable modules; the main one features a recovery capacity of 40 tonnes per hour, while the second collects very light oils. Both deliver 98–100% water-free recovered oil that can be sold for profit, which is reinvested into the clean-up programme.

Sea work international Southampton

The Gobbler boat won two awards at the Seawork 2015 exhibition at the Port of Southampton, the Spiritof Innovation trophy and the Vessel Construction and Design award

The skimmers are located at the front of the vessel and the recovered oil is pumped through the boat’s internal hoses to a bollard that is located on the aft deck. This is connected to a detachable bladder, which is available in different capacities to suit the location and trailed behind the boat. Once filled to capacity, the bladders are connected to a QuadPod or OctoPod, a floating pumping station, similar to a buoy, that can empty four or eight bladders into a ship or road tanker at up to 300 tonnes per hour. The bladders are reusable, and because the boat doesn’t carry any oil, it isn’t hampered by weight and is easily manoeuvrable.

To deal with riverbank and land pollution, the Gobbler engineers have adapted small hovercraft with equipment to spread a carpet of patented, lightweight, nontoxic, highly absorbent material that has been produced in-house from recycled newspaper and additives. The material does not absorb water, but quickly absorbs oil up to 20 times its own weight from beaches and riverbanks. Once harvested, this material becomes valuable biomass.

Paul and Simon have secured a contract to provide boats to the Federal Government of Nigeria to assist in the clean-up of Ogniland and surrounding areas in the Niger Delta floodplains, where wide-scale oil extraction has contaminated the environment. They have also set up a community interest company, CleanerSeas, which aims to donate the boats and equipment to countries in need and train local people to operate and maintain the equipment.

A new facility to manufacture the boats will open in South Wales in January 2017 and the company also has a subsidiary in the USA that will soon be up and running. A further four facilities are planned to open in the UK by 2018.

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