New Pilot Boat for the Thames and Medway

Photo: Port of London Authority

Posted by Eric Haun

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
pilot 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 meter
ORC class vessels that carry marine pilots from the Kent coast to
board ships, in the Thames Estuary. The ships which are arriving
from all over the world are then guided by the pilots up river to
deliver their cargoes to terminals and jetties on the Thames and
Medway.

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 vessel is being built by Goodchild Marine
Services in Great Yarmouth. The build of each of the new boats in
the replacement program is staggered to give ESL's crew time to
train and adjust as they replace the older vessels in the fleet.

ESL said the ORC has proven to be its most efficient pilot boat
design with 24 percent fuel efficiency over the older vessels in
the fleet. The most recent additions to the ESL fleet, Estuary
Elan and Estuary Elite, are also ORCs, which like the new vessel
feature a unique 'beak' bow design, which gives it unmatched all
weather capability. The wheelhouse is 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 is 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."

Feb 22, 2017

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