Abels Shipbuilders

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Abels Shipbuilders
Private company
Industry Shipbuilding,
Founded 1980
Headquarters Bristol Harbour, England
Key people
David Abels (founder)
Number of employees
35 (2001)[1]

Abels Shipbuilders Ltd is a ship and boat builder in Bristol, England. They are now the largest remaining shipbuilder in Bristol. In addition to boat building, the company have branched out into architectural sculptures, tidal energy and marine restoration.[2] David Abels boat builders in currently in receivership.


The Orkney Ferries vessel MV Eynhallow departing at Tingwall. Built in 1987 by Abels for 11 cars and 95 pax.

Founded in 1980 by David Abels, the company took over part of the Albion Dockyard formerly occupied by Charles Hill & Sons who went out of business in 1977. The site includes the large covered dry dock originally built by Hilhouse in 1820, and has a capacity of 350 tonnes.

The company builds a wide variety of vessels up to 250 tonnes and 25 m (82 ft) in length in steel and aluminium, typically tugs, passenger and Roll-on/roll-off ferries, survey vessels, launches and work boats. Around 80% of orders are for UK customers although recently the company delivered aluminium patrol and ambulance boats to Nigeria.[3] The company also built Pero's Bridge (the horned foot bridge) which opened in 1999.[4] Recent and current work includes a 180 tonne, 250 passenger catamaran for Clyde Marine and the rebuild of the Medway Queen for the Medway Queen Preservation Society.


The company has been building ferries since at least 1985, when the 60 passenger Island Princess was delivered to Scottish owners, and she still operates as a whale watching boat off the Isle of Mull. Several further ferry orders followed including the 29-metre (95 ft) Roll-on/roll-off ferry Eynhallow for Orkney Ferries in 1987, and the 19-metre (62 ft) Maid of the Forth for the Forth River in 1989.[5] In 2001 Abels secured a contract to build a twin deck ferry for the Portsmouth Harbour Ferry Company. Shortly afterwards the company was awarded a follow-on contract for a second ferry. The first ship, Spirit of Gosport was delivered successfully, but the second, Spirit of Portsmouth was only partially constructed when the customer cancelled the order.

The latest ferry built is the Clyde Clipper for Clyde Marine and delivered in July 2009. She is a 125grt catamaran or 28 m (92 ft) length and 11 m (36 ft) beam and able to carry up to 250 passengers. Powered is supplied by two Doosan diesel engines and the vessel has a speed of around 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)

Survey Vessels[edit]

Coastal Guardian in Fleetwood, 2008.

In the lates 1980s, Abels began to construct a series of survey vessels for the UK Environment Agency.[6] Vigilance was the first of four similar vessels and delivered by David Abels for work in the Bristol Channel in 1990. The follow on ships constructed were the Sea Vigil based on the South Coast, Coastal Guardian for the Mersey and Water Guardian, based on the North East Coast, but spent some time in the Bristol Channel while Plymouth University chartered the Vigilance. Ranging from 42 to 71 tonnes, and 15.8 to 16.5 m (52 to 54 ft) in length, they are 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) ships operated by the Agency's National Marine Service. Their complement includes scientists and each are fitted for survey activities such as taking seabed samples, trawling and water sampling as methods to monitor the area's coastline, including use of Meteorological sea surface temperature equipment on a tow fish when required.[7]

Vessels built by Abels Shipbuilders[edit]

The Clyde Clipper catamaran fitting out at Abels during February 2009. Capacity is up to 250 passengers.
A model of the Medway Queen. The ship is being rebuilt at Abels under Heritage Lottery Funding.

Vessels built by Abels Shipbuilders in Bristol include:

  • Maria McLoughlin (1981). 500 hp (370 kW) steel tug.
  • Sarah McLoughlin (1981). 500 hp (370 kW) steel tug.
  • Island Princess (1985). 50 ft (15 m) 60 seat passenger ferry.
  • MV Eynhallow (1987). 104 grt Ro-Ro vehicle and passenger ferry.
  • Surta (1988). 42 ft (13 m) steam passenger vessel.
  • Vigilance (1989). 42 t environmental survey vessel.
  • Maid of the Forth (1989). 70gt 225 seat passenger ferry.
  • Sea Vigil (1991). 55 t survey vessel.
  • Avon Monarch (1991). 75 seat passenger vessel.
  • Coastal Guardian (1992). 74 t survey vessel.
  • Water Guardian (1992). 51 t survey vessel.
  • Sir William Pulteney (1993). 85 seat passenger ferry.
  • Impulse (1994). 52 grt steel pusher tug.
  • Georgina (1995). 80.1 ft (24.4 m) motor boat.
  • The Georgian (1995). 93.5 ft (28.5 m) motor boat.
  • Lenie (1997). 121 grt multi-purpose tug.
  • PAD.42 to PAD.51 (1999). 7.62 m (25.0 ft), 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph) aluminium-hulled Nigerian police launches.
  • Spirit of Gosport (2001). 250 t passenger ferry.
  • Beauchamp (2001). 80 ft (24 m) floating classroom vessel.
  • Spirit of Portsmouth (2002). 250 t passenger ferry (unfinished).
  • Faoilean (2002). 58 t fish farming vessel.
  • Corrine Marin (2004). Floating café and restaurant for Arbi'n'Tap Ltd. Due to a contractual dispute Dave Abel ceased trading after going into receivership following the build of this ship.
  • Leanne McLoughlin (2005). Line running vessel.
  • Noleen McLoughlin (2005). Line running vessel.
  • Clay Barge No 8 (2005). 39.5 ft (12.0 m) motor barge.
  • Clyde Clipper (2009). 125 grt catamaran ferry.
  • Seagreen (2010). 304 gt Work vessel for the French transport & utility company Veolia.
  • Medway Queen (2010). Rebuild of the 180 ft (55 m) iron paddle steamer.
  • West Country Schooner (2011). 60 t topsail schooner
Previous Bristol Shipyards with Abels Shipbuilders highlighted in part of the former Charles Hill & Sons and Hilhouse Albion Yard.


  1. ^ Irish Sea News Bulletin: December 2001 Retrieved in 18 October 2010
  2. ^ David Abels Boat Builders Retrieved in 7 October 2012
  3. ^ Shuner Sparks Issue 16 – March/April 2007 Retrieved in 4 December 2007
  4. ^ Contract Journal: Bridging the Gap Retrieved in 4 December 2007
  5. ^ Maid of the Forth: Vessel Specifications Retrieved in 19 October 2010
  6. ^ Channel Images: WSS Swansea Features Retrieved in 19 October 2010
  7. ^ Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology: Water Guardian Retrieved in 19 October 2010