Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Thunderbirds Are Go! New Thames Pilot Boat Provides Space Age Update

Rivers See Another Futuristic Vessel with ORC's Less Lord of the Rings More Tracy Island
Shipping News Feature
UK – Estuary Services Limited (ESL), a joint venture between the Port of London Authority (PLA) and Peel Ports London Medway, is continuing its fleet replacement plan and buying another new boat for its pilot transfer operations serving the ports of London and Medway. ESL currently has a fleet of six vessels including two 17.1 metre ORC class vessels that carry marine pilots from the Kent coast to board ships in the Thames Estuary.

The new vessel, which is currently in the early build stage, is a £1.3 million ORC 136.E. Designed by French naval architects Pantocarene, the futuristic vessel is being built by Goodchild Marine Services in Great Yarmouth and the build of each of the new boats in the replacement programme is staggered to give ESL’s crew time to train and adjust as they replace the older vessels in the fleet.

The ORC has proven to be ESL’s most efficient pilot boat design with 24% fuel efficiency over the older vessels in the fleet. The two most recent additions to the ESL fleet are also ORCs, which like the new vessel feature a unique ‘beak’ bow design, which gives it unmatched all weather capability and a look which has seen it compared to a resident of Tracy Island. The wheelhouse is also quieter, vibration-free and more comfortable for crew and pilots.

ESL transfers pilots to more than 10,000 ships in the Thames’ southern approaches every year, including cruise ships, containers vessels, tankers and general cargo carriers. The main pilot boarding station is 8 miles from Ramsgate which the launches reach at a speed of 25 knots, their top speed being some 28 knots. Ian Lord, ESL general manager said:

“We know the ORCs are more fuel-efficient. They are also more comfortable for crews and pilots, ensuring all they arrive in the best possible condition to navigate ships on the Thames and Medway.”

Peter Steen, Port of London Authority director of marine operations and a director of ESL, said:

“The ORCs have proven to be more efficient and reliable, so the new boat will certainly help us with our mission to provide the best service possible to customers moving trade through the Thames and Medway ports.”