Old vessels inspire new generation of engineers

Historic Mersey vessels – including steam tender Daniel Adamson (The Danny) – are being used to inspire a new generation of marine engineers. Tony McDonough reports

The Danny
Brocklebank, Daniel Adamson and Trident all lined up in Canning Dock in Liverpool


More than 100 years old, steam tender Daniel Adamson once towed barges alongside the great ocean liners on the Mersey.

Its working life on the river may be long gone but the restored vessel, which these days is used for pleasure trips, is now being used to help and inspire a new generation of marine engineers.

As part of the Maritime Heritage – Maritime Futures programme, The Danny, along with other vessels including National Museums Liverpool’s Brocklebank and current Svitzer tug Trident, are now part of a new skills project.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, 36 engineering students from Hugh Baird College in Bootle, Wirral Met in Birkenhead, and Riverside and Cronton Colleges in Widnes and Runcorn have been enrolled.

Focusing on decarbonisation and maritime sustainability and vessel design, the programme will educate the students about Liverpool’s importance as a global port city and its rich heritage as a centre for innovative maritime technologies.

The students will learn about how the region’s maritime sector is rapidly greening its operations, and what kind of jobs and opportunities exist.

It is being supported by the region’s key players in the maritime sector, including Svitzer, Peel Ports Group, Safeguard Engineering, Liverpool Pilots, and Cammell Laird.

Complementing their Level-3 curriculum and classroom learning, the students will develop specific problem-solving strategies and skills whilst completing a series of team-based challenges.

Over the course of the academic year, and with the support of some of the region’s most experienced naval architects and engineers, they will be tasked with designing and building a prototype vessel informed by the principles of low carbon design.

All the students came together in Canning Dock in Liverpool for a launch event. They were able to get on board The Danny, Brocklebank and Trident, a ‘climate neutral’ tug, to see first-hand the engineering that went into building them.

Engineers from each of the tenders led vessel tours, illustrating the challenges and evolution of maritime propulsion over the last 120 years.

Svitzer’s decarbonisation team spoke to the students about the role that retrofit fuel technologies, vessel speed limits, and fuel types have in decarbonising maritime operations.

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By converting Trident from marine gas oil onto sustainably sourced hydrotreated vegetable oil-based fuels, Svitzer has reduced Trident’s annual CO2 emissions by 530 tonnes.

Cathriona Bourke, collaborations and partnership manager for The Danny, said: “The Danny has a knack for bringing people together and forging a sense of community – it is how she survived.

“By introducing these young engineers to their maritime heritage as well as the vast potential on their doorstep we are giving them a sense of pride and belonging which we hope will equip them with new skills, ambitions, and confidence.”


Engineering students get on board Daniel Adamson – The Danny – in Canning Dock in Liverpool
Engineering students will be tasked with testing a vessel prototype


The Maritime Heritage – Maritime Futures programme will culminate in June 2024 with an exciting Float Your Boat showcase on Liverpool’s waterfront.

Competing in teams, the students will use the vessel prototype they have designed and built over the course of the programme to deliver the maximum amount of cargo across Salthouse Dock at the lowest environmental and economic cost.

Engineering student Alice Johnson, from Hugh Baird College in Bootle, added: “To come and actually see the history of the boats and how they’ve evolved through the years has been really good and really educational towards the course I am doing.”

The Daniel Adamson Preservation Society was founded in 2004 to rescue and restore the 1903, Mersey-built steam tug, the last remaining vessel of her kind in the country.

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