Obituary: Frank Nattrass, engineer and inventor

Frank Nattrass, who has died at 92, was the inventor of a new type of freight shipping device, which he turned out from a factory in Knaresborough that became one of the town’s biggest employers.

Frank Nattrass

Frank Nattrass, who has died at 92, was the inventor of a new type of freight shipping device, which he turned out from a factory in Knaresborough that became one of the town’s biggest employers.

Born in Crook, County Durham, the eldest of four children, he did his National Service in the Royal Horse Artillery in Italy and Palestine, and upon returning home took a job as a draughtsman at the Armstrong Whitworths shipyard on the banks of the Tyne. He also enrolled at night school to study mechanical engineering and went on to qualify as a chartered engineer.

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It was in 1968 that he took an interest in two ICI products called Parafil and Paraweb, a tubular rope and polymer ribbon respectively. He invented a spike fitting which allowed them to be used to make guard-rails on boats, and before long the product was adapted to heavy shipping and communication towers.

But it was the invention that came afterwards that revolutionised the handling of cargo. Mr Nattrass’s disposable one-trip sling, made from Paraweb, could handle a load of 10 hundredweight sacks which, instead of being slung into the ship’s hold, could be tied together from their source factory to their destination across the oceans. It cut down their handling time enormously.

He set up Hiten Components to manufacture the slings in a factory on Knaresborough’s Kirkgate, but soon realised that even more handling time and expense could be saved by doing away with the old sacks completely, putting instead a whole consignment into one bag with lifting loops. He called it the Big Bag.

He made it by melting down ICI’s polypropylene beads into fabric which was then used to ship petrochemical products worldwide.

The invention was taken up around the globe, and with his brother, Peter, Mr Nattrass set up Lolift UK to make the bags. Soon, they were being shipped from Knaresborough to all four corners of the globe, and their use remains commonplace.

Mr Nattrass is survived by his wife, Joyce, whom he met at the church youth club back in Crook and married in 1950, and by two children, three grandchildren and four great grandchildren.