PORT bosses have bid farewell to a faithful old friend – the grab dredger Hedwin, which has left Tyneside for a new life in Africa.
The 49m Hedwin has been operational on the Tyne for more than 40 years.
Built specifically for the river, at the Robb Caledon shipyard in Leith, Scotland, she entered service in 1970 and has since been a familiar sight keeping the shipping channels and berths to the right depth and free of obstructions.
Port of Tyne marine services manager Verill Eliss said: “She has been operational for 41 years – her departure is a momentous day.
“But Hedwin is getting old, and we are looking forward to welcoming a new, state-of-the-art workboat to the river this summer.”
Hedwin played a key role in the deepening of Riverside Quay, clearing rocks and debris at its eastern end.
She was also important in channel dredging work to allow the massive 300,000-ton Bonga to come into the Tyne for conversion into a floating production, storage and offloading vessel nearly nine years ago.
The Bonga was the largest vessel ever to make its way up the river.
In years gone by, Hedwin was one of a fleet of 16 dredgers based on the Tyne, maintaining depths all the way upriver past the Tyne Bridge, as far as the old Armstrong Works.
She was named after Hedwin Streams, the upper limit of the 19-mile tidal river, over which Port of Tyne has jurisdiction.
From the 1970s onwards, ships began to concentrate towards the mouth of the Tyne – partly because they were getting larger, and also because of costs.
She has been sold to a port in Puntland, Somalia, and will be towed to her new home, where she will continue to operate as a working dredger.
Mr Eliss added: “She will probably get another 15 years’ life in Somalia.”