News | Published April 15 2020

GPS Marine director: "There are trapped assets overseas worth millions"

In an exclusive article for The Parliamentary Review, GPS Marine MD John Spencer discusses precisely how Covid-19 quarantine measures have affected his firm.

Simply put, activities in all areas in which we operate have been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The effect of the need for social distancing and employers’ responsibilities to workers whilst travelling to and from work have caused work on Europe’s largest construction project, the Tideway Tunnel Scheme, to be temporarily suspended. 

This has had a huge knock on effect to freight activity on the Thames, not only in relation to business directly related to the project, but also because the shutdown of this project and numerous others have caused a sharp decline in the demand for concrete and two of the terminals served by GPS Marine have temporarily closed. 

Similarly, while the suspension of tunnelling and other activities on the Tideway Scheme has completely removed spoil from that source from the market, the closure of numerous other construction sites has also reduced the tonnage of spoil being transported on the Thames. 

Of GPS Marine’s twelve tugs that had been working on the Thames prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and the government’s measures to control the spread of the disease, only two remain operational.

Two of the tugs that had been working on the Thames were redeployed into the wider market, and while one continues to trade, the second vessel, which was reallocated to a dredging project in Scotland, has now also been forced into lay-up. This has come as a result of the project she had been allocated to being shut down because of the Scottish Government’s attempts to control the spread of Covid-19.

A final vessel, which had been dispatched to Romania in January to collect two new barges that the company had purchased, arrived in Romania before Covid-19 struck. In response to a long-term charter enquiry in Southern Africa for that vessel and the two barges she was assigned to collect, the decision was taken to carry out a routine docking of the tug, prior to despatch to Africa, in Bulgaria. 

During docking, part of the crew were allowed to go home on leave before their reliefs were despatched to the vessel. When the tug was almost ready to sail, the Bulgarian authorities effectively closed their borders and that tug is now marooned in Bulgaria as it is impossible for her master and mate to join her. 

This situation and other similar situations, affecting repair specialists as well as crew, are restricting the ability of offshore vessels to operate freely or at all. For GPS Marine, the effective closure of the Romanian and Bulgarian borders is trapping assets with a market value of more than six million euros in the Black Sea, where they are incapable of generating any income.

For more information, you can read GPS Marine's Parliamentary Review article here.

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Authored by

John Spencer
Managing Director at GPS Marine
April 15 2020

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