Simons and Lobnitz

The Simons and Lobnitz yard, just downstream from the Renfrew Ferry, specialised in dredgers and hopper barges which helped navigation and waterway maintenance projects not only on the Clyde, but also in Africa, India and, most famously, the Panama Canal.

Nowadays their basin serves a yard exporting scrap metal.

The building of dredgers and hopper barges was largely dominated by four Clyde firms based in Port Glasgow, Paisley and Renfrew.  Apart from world wide exports, all supplied the Clyde Navigation Trust whose responsibility it was to ensure that the river remained commercially navigable, preventing the build up of silt, deepening it to meet the ever increasing draught of larger ships, and developing new quays and basins as all the available space was taken further upriver. As time went on it was also necessary for arrange for the dredged material to be dumped in deep water further out in the Firth of Clyde, rather than on the banks as previously. For all this dredging new technology was needed to speed up work and lower costs.

The Simons yard based itself in Renfrew from 1860. In 1874 their competitor, Coulburn Lobnitz & Company set up next door.  Both progressively introduced technical innovations which improved the performance of their dredgers and hoppers. The two companies eventually amalgamated in 1957 in the face of  declining business and finally closed in 1964, after some 1300 dredgers as well as barges and tugs had been built at the site.

One steam ship built by Lobnitz survives. The SS Shieldhall was built in 1955 at Renfrew to carry treated sludge from Glasgow's sewage works for dumping further out on the Firth of Clyde.  After several changes of ownership she was purchased by a charity, the Solent Steam Packet Ltd which operates summer cruises from Southampton. Like the Waverley she is on the UK's National Register of Historic Vessels.

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