The Erimus Star: Where Oil and Water Mix

18 January 2017 by CSG

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One of CSG’s more unusual oil disposal services can be found in Middlesbrough, on the river Tees, performing a valuable task at any time of day or night.

The Erimus Star started life as a Dutch barge, converted from her previous life carrying fuel to barges on the Rhine to collecting waste oil discharge from vessels while they’re in port. Once relocated to Teesside, she was renamed in honour of her adopted home: Erimus, Latin for “we shall be” is the motto featured on Middlesbrough’s official coat of arms.


At the helm is the disarmingly cheery Ray Brown, one of the skippers of the Erimus Star for the last eight years. Originally a lorry driver, he answered the call when the position became available, a role he now combines with his HGV duties.


“I hadn’t done much sailing before I started – just a trip on the Norfolk Broads one holiday – but there were so many courses I had to complete in order to qualify to do the job, my level of experience didn’t really matter. I had to do a Power Boating course, a Radio Operator course, a Sea Survival course, a Day Skipper course and a Night Skipper course.  Obviously, nothing compares to actually doing the job and of course knowledge of the river is really important, which is something you can only pick up over time.  Now I can say I’m an experienced sailor but to be quite honest, I try to avoid boats when I’m on holiday these days!”

It may seem odd that his 56 year-old craft is the best way to retrieve the waste oil discharged by the various boats in dock at Middlesbrough but there’s a perfectly sensible reason for it.

“There’s a lot of Petrochemical plants here and, for safety reasons, motor vehicles are restricted from large parts of those sites.  As we can’t use a lorry to tank the oil, it makes sense to do it by boat.”

One area where you can’t expect Ray to offer an easy explanation is if you ask him to describe an ‘average day’ – there isn’t one!

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“Everything can be different from one day to the next: the weather, the number of times we’re called out, the size of the boat we’re discharging from and even the amount of notice we get to do it – although that’s usually when someone’s forgotten about discharging their oil until the last minute!” – there’s a distinctly mischievous tone to his voice as he adds the final sentence!

As the world of shipping largely operates around the tides, servicing its requirements is likely to be a 24/7 commitment.  “I wasn’t needed this last New Year’s Eve but the year before, I was out on the water at 11pm and two years before that, I was working at 2am on New Year’s Day!”

With such demands, it’s easy to see why Ray has such an easy-going demeanour – it’s impossible to imagine anyone doing his job for so long without his good humour and positivity.  “It’s a great job in summer, in the fresh air and good weather but when the wind blows up the river from the North Sea, you’d be surprised how high the waves can be – up to a metre and a half in 40 mile per hour winds.  Thankfully, I don’t get seasick but after a full day bobbing up and down, it can be difficult to shake the feeling of constant motion, even hours after getting back on dry land.”

One of his most recent call-outs was to one of the largest vessels to regularly visit Middlesbrough, the MV Sertão, a 60,000-ton, 228m drill ship.  “It’s a bit more challenging than usual trying to connect up when their deck is 30m above ours but the hardest task is keeping the lines tight enough for us to stay in place while loosening them enough during the eight hours that it takes to discharge 50,000 litres of waste oil, to stop the extra weight dragging us off-balance.”

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