Oregis repairs and conversion cost over £1m

Oregis aground on Black Middens 1974.
Oregis aground on Black Middens 1974.

The former 9,900-ton ore-carrier Oregis set off for Marseilles on March 10, 1974, after spending 11 months at a North Shields ship-repair yard belonging to Swan Hunter being converted to an oil rig support vessel at a cost of over £1m.

High winds and loss of power forced the Oregis onto the Black Middens rocks near the entrance to the Tyne.

She was unable to be refloated until around a month later because of the tides and crowds came from far afield to witness her plight.

The tug Northsider was refloated after being dragged aground with the ship, all hands were rescued by Tynemouth inshore rescue boat crewed by local men Trevor Fryer and Fred Arkley. Trevor and Fred were awarded RNLI bronze medals for bravery, presented at the Royal Festival Hall in London by HRH the Duke of Kent, in May 1975.

Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade took the 40 crew members of the Oregis safely ashore by breeches buoy.

Unfortunately, two men from Hull, who were set afloat in a dingy from the Statesman I salvage tug, were washed overboard by the high waves whilst trying to put a line on the stricken vessel.

Denis Mofitt was rescued but Peter Boulton, aged 19, drowned.

The Oregis was refloated and refitted for undersea oil work at the same ship-repair yard in North Shields. She was renamed HTS Coupler 1, chartered by American company Hydro Technical Systems, as the first pipe-coupling ship in the North Sea in August 1974.

If anyone has further information please ask for Discover at North Shields Customer First Centre on (0191) 643 5270 or email discover@northtyneside.gov.uk