The day Montrose joined the big league

Who would have believed it? 40 years have passed since the opening of the Sea Oil Services base in the lower estuary of the South Esk.

As Britain’s largest and most diverse shipping group P&O had set their sights on Montrose prior to the initial contract being signed in early 1972.

The conglomerate up till then had taken a keen interest in providing supply ship services in the southern sector of the North Sea and also in Australian waters. It then seemed logical to expand into support base operations.

The resultant multi-million pound development was formally opened by Lord Inchcape, then chairman of the P&O group, on April 25th, 1975.

Built on a 40-acre reclaimed site, much of it dredged from the bed of the South Esk, the ceremony marked almost three years of detailed planning and construction activity.

Approximately 1,000,000 cubic metres of sand and gravel had been dredged by the W. D. Enterprise owned by Westminster Dredging Company.

Montrose had been chosen due to its numerous advantages which included a sizeable waterfront area, a reasonable depth of water at most states of the tide, a well-protected harbour, a good reputation for fast turn-round of shipping and road and rail links.

On May 16 of the same year Mrs Thatcher, then Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, came to town to name new quays on both sides of the river.

In November, 1973 the first supply vessels to seriously use the port had arrived and on May 25th of the following year the Sea Oil Services base facilities became operational with the arrival of the Tender Tarpon bringing in oilfield supplies from Norway.

Coincidentally, this week a flat-top barge Osprey Intrepid was towed alongside the reconstructed deepwater section of the South Quay to load out offshore fabrications and related heavy equipment, one of the services which the base had originally been designed to handle.