Between 1970 and 2016, 5.73 million tonnes of oil contaminated the world's oceans as a result of tanker incidents, according to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, causing untold environmental damage. Now Gobbler Boats founder and veteran boatbuilder Paul Jauncey (below, centre) has developed a new type of oil recovery boat that he believes will change the world.
MT hopped on board to figure out how.
A lifetime in the making
‘I’ve always built boats,’ says Jauncey, explaining how he founded his own maritime construction company in 1968 after a career as a flight engineer, and spent the next 50 years travelling the world, raising his two sons at sea.
He says Gobbler was born in 2009 after a stateside dinner conversation with co-founder and US navy veteran Jose Suarez, who had been working on clearing oil spills, but expressed his frustration at the ineffectiveness of the means available.
‘He asked me what I knew about oil spills,’ laughs Jauncey. ‘Of course the answer to that was zero’. After agreeing to help, the two started looking into a viable solution.Then in 2010 came the Deepwater horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which gave Jauncey the opportunity to observe spill recovery in action.
‘There was no way they could do the job with the equipment they had,’ he says, explaining how the ships could only collect a limited amount of oil before having to return to shore. He also explains that the ships had no way of separating the water from the oil.
Confident that he could find a more efficient solution, Jauncey sat down with his son Simon to design a completely new type of boat.
So how is Gobbler boats different?
‘Ours is a dedicated boat for oil spills. A lot of the other boats are converted fishing boats and stuff like that,’ says Jauncey explaining how the ‘tiny’ 29 foot long, three and three quarter tonne Gobbler boats can operate on shallow beaches, on rivers and up to 60 miles offshore.
The name Gobbler comes from the fact that they ‘gobble up the oil’. Jauncey has redesigned the ‘skimmer’ that collects the oil to separate out the water and has created bladders that are towed behind the boats and can be detached and collected once full. He has also developed a biomass called Gosorb that absorbs oil, allowing it to be easily collected and separated.
The recovered oil will then be resold. But Jauncey is keen to stress that this is not about money, and says that once Gobbler’s costs have been covered, the profits will be reinvested back into redeveloping the pollution-affected area.
But it’s not just oil - the company can collect plastics and has been developing suits to clean seabirds, modified hovercraft to clean on land and also enzymes that stimulate the breeding of fish and vegetation once areas have been cleaned.
Jauncey says it is actually thinking about the end result - what happens to the oil and area post clean - that makes Gobbler a genuine solution to the world’s pollution problem.
‘We work differently to everyone else, we look at the final problem of what we're going to do before we even start thinking about how we're going to do it.'
Full steam ahead
Now after eight years of research and development the company is finally ready to launch and Jauncey is confident it will be a success.
He is due to open a factory in St Athan in south Wales, a contract with the Nigerian government is already well underway and the US Navy has already asked for a trial.
‘The biggest challenge has been raising enough money,’ says Jauncey, who has loaned the business £3.5m of his own money, and topped this up with £750,000 investment from outside sources, although he says there is more significant investment in the pipeline.
‘So many people thought this would never work, yet we've proved it has,’ says Jauncey. ‘Within seven years Gobbler Boats will be a multi-billion dollar company.’
Header image credit: jukurae/Shutterstock
Body pictures: Gobbler Boats