Estuary Services Limited (ESL), a joint venture between the UK’s Port of London Authority (PLA) and Peel Ports London Medway, is continuing its fleet replacement plan and buying another new Goodchild Marine constructed ‘beak bow’ 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 metre 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, who have 39 years’ boat building experience. 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 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 said to be 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.”

Visit Goodchild Marine Services at Seawork International 2017 on stand PB37.

By Jake Frith