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Finnart Ocean Terminal

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Finnart terminal area, September 1965, Fox
Finnart terminal area 1965

Finnart Ocean Terminal, also referred to as Finnart Oil Terminal, is a petrochemical transfer facility which lies on the A814 road on the eastern shore of Loch Long, about two miles north of Garelochhead, and nine miles northwest of Helensburgh..

The terminal comprises a series of piers (usually referred to incorrectly as jetties) which extend into the loch, with a deep berth able to accept tankers of up to 324,000 tonnes. Storage is provided in a tank farm which extends from the piers into the hillside to the east, and straddles the A814 road which cuts through the site, separating a number of tanks from the main facility. Crude oil is sent though a 20 inch (0.51 m) pipe to the Grangemouth oil refinery, while refined products are returned for export, through a separate 12 inch (0.3 m) multi-product pipe.

The terminal was operated by British Petroleum (BP) until 2005, when ownership passed to INEOS, a privately-held British-based multi-national chemicals company.

Site history

The site includes both Finnart House and Arddarroch House, each of which once served the adjoining estates of the same names. Once well known for their horticulture, the gardens associated with both houses have been lost.

Finnart House

Finnart House, attributed to William Burn (December 20, 1789 – February 15, 1870) was built c. 1832 for ship-builder John MacGregor, and lies to the west of the A814, abandoned and boarded up.

It seems the following paragraph is incorrect, although referred to in many sources - see the Helensburgh Heritage article referred to below.

It was the former seat of Edward Caird (March 23, 1835 – November 1, 1908), philosopher and younger brother of the theologian John Caird (December 15, 1820 - July 30, 1898). Edward was born in Greenock, and educated at Glasgow and Oxford Universities, where he became Fellow and Tutor of Merton College. In 1866 he was appointed to the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow, which he held until 1893, when he became Master of Balliol College, from which he retired in 1907.

The house was converted into a hotel prior to the outbreak of World War II, when it was requisitioned for use by the US Navy, for use as an administration block for the oil jetty constructed on the site to provide bunkering facilities for navy vessels. Returned to its owners after the war, it prospered once as a hotel until the site was taken over by the Anglo Iranian Oil Co. The building is listed in the Building at Risk register, together with an associated lodge abandoned at the side the A814, with both being shown as Crown property owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). This presumably explains why this house has not been reused within the terminal.

Arddarroch House

Arddarroch House, attributed to William Burn (December 20, 1789 – February 15, 1870), is a substantial gabled villa built in 1838 for John McVicar, a Glasgow merchant, and was altered and extended with the addition of a conservatory (now demolished) in 1846-47 by David Bryce (1803 - 1876), pupil to Burn. The house now forms offices and accommodation for the oil terminal, with an associated lodge located at the side of the A814.

Helensburgh Heritage Trust article on the houses

In 2019, Helensburgh Heritage Trust published a locally researched article on the two houses, with much additional detail on both the houses and their occupants, correcting a misconception regarding the Edward Caird who owned Finnart House.

This article is worth reading for its additional detail and corrections:

In 1862, the property was sold, heralding the beginning of a new chapter in the story of the mansion. The new owner was Edward Caird, and his family was to be linked to Finnart for almost eighty years.

Many otherwise reputable sources, both old and new, in both printed and online format, confidently state that the Edward Caird who lived at Finnart hailed from the Greenock family of that name, notable as shipbuilders and academics.

Thus, Groome's Gazetteer of Scotland (1883) refers to Finnart as the seat of Edward Caird, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University. This is incorrect.

The Edward Caird who bought Finnart came from the east of Scotland, his background being the jute mills of Dundee. As it happens, the Cairds of Dundee and the Cairds of Greenock were distantly related by marriage, but essentially they were two distinct entities.

Born at Montrose in 1805, the purchaser of Finnart grew up as an ambitious young man, and in 1832, set up his own business as Caird (Dundee) Ltd.

- Two mansions had much in common[1]

World War II

The terminal was constructed during World War II 1942-44 on the site of the Arddarroch and Finnart estates by the US Navy as an oil jetty by the same team of American engineers responsible for the Rosneath Naval Base, which they were secretly employed on before the United States was officially involved in the war.[2] During the war, Scotland's main oil refinery was based at Grangemouth, which was within range of the Luftwaffe. Finnart was chosen for the terminal because it offered a sheltered deep water site which was safely behind the Clyde boom defences. Piers were erected on the shore, to service visiting ships, and storage tanks were built to hold oil from the Grangemouth refinery. Oil was transported to the terminal through a pipeline which was constructed to the Mountblow Fuel Depot near Old Kilpatrick, and on to the refinery at Grangemouth. A spur was added to connect the Rosneath Naval Base to the pipeline.[3]


Since 1954, the terminal has been connected to the Grangemouth Oil Refinery on the east coast by a 58 mile (93 km) pipeline system.

After the war, the Finnart terminal became part of the BP Oil Company, and was used extensively prior to the discovery of North Sea oil, after which usage dropped off. The site has been redeveloped several times in order to take account of increasing oil tanker dimensions, and has always been able to accommodate the largest size in use at any given time. The site was further developed in 2008, by owner INEOS, after a management buyout of BP Petrochemicals dating from 1997.

A document published in 2009, by Defence Estates which manages estates on behalf of the MoD, lists the Finnart Ocean Terminal as a Storage & Supply Depot occupying an area of 22 hectares within the constituency of Argyll & Bute.[4]

Grangemouth refinery connection

Lying near the Firth of Forth, the Grangemouth refinery dates from 1924, and until World World War II handled some 400,000 tonnes of crude oil per year. Major expansions carried our immediately after the war, and again during the 1970s, brought the refinery's capacity up to more than 10,000,000 tonnes per year.

The North Sea Forties Pipeline system terminates at the refinery, with excess crude oil being exported via pipeline to a tanker loading terminal on the Forth. The refinery also receives crude oil though a 58 mile pipeline from Finnart Ocean Terminal, which can handle tankers of up to 324,000 tonnes. Previously owned by BP Petrochemicals, the refinery was sold to INEOS in December 2005.

Kerosene & jet fuel13%
Gas oil8%
Fuel oil15%
LPG/petrochemical feedstocks12%
Fuel gas/other6%


Tank with camouflage paint evident, 2008, Fox
Tank with camouflage paint evident
Finnart House within terminal area, 2008, Fox
Finnart House within terminal area
Napoba berthed at terminal, 2008, Fox
Napoba berthed at terminal


1 Two mansions had much in common Retreived 12 August 2019.

2 Rosneath construction, refers to pipeline and Finnart terminal

3 Bowling to Rosneath spur

4 Estate Baseline 2009, Defence Estates, MoD

External links

Aerial views



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