Effective fendering for longer life pilot boats

Fendering is seen in place and working on a similar pilot boat

Trelleborg has had a hand in extending the life of new pilot boats for the UK Port of Harwich well before the pair is due to hit the water. The vessels, being built by Holyhead Marine, are due to be launched in February next year.

‘Pilot boats lead a hard life, said Keith Horne of Trelleborg. ‘The traditional kind of rigid rubber fendering doesn’t really take into account the kinds of impact that pilot boats often receive in day to day use.’ They get a battering and predictably, over time, the structure deteriorates.

But the kind of fendering to be put in place on the Port of Harwich craft is designed in a completely different way,  and Keith Horne belives it can double the working life of a pilot boat.

Developed in collaboration with boat designer Camarc, the outermost part of the Popsure structure is a hollow polyethelene pipe. This deforms briefly under impact and then springs back again, taking most of the shock and spreading the impact laterally over a large area of the hull instead of passing straight through.

Behind and holding this pipe in place is a shaped, thin walled buffer. This second part of the fender is made from a low density, closed cell foam which is covered in a tough fibre reinforced polyurethane elastomer skin which minimises shock and is considered indispensable for the new Harwich boats. As Keith Horne told MJ, there is truth to the saying that pilot boats are ‘all about a series of controlled collisions’.

This is confirmed by Captain Cliff Brand, Harbour Master at Harwich Haven, who explained that the boats will be used for transferring pilots on a 13 mile run from the Haven to the Sunk pilot station, east of Harwich. ‘The pilot boats have to secure themselves alongside the ships out there, and at times the weather can be quite severe. This means the fendering system will be under some stress, and has to be able to take the impact’, he said.

There is also the comfort factor to take into account, as it is simply less jarring to the human anatomy if pilot boats are well fendered. Keith Horne said he has been out with the pilots to observe what the craft are up against, and although his trips have been in good weather, ‘it is obvious that if you are trying to transfer someone between two heaving vessels, the need for good fendering is absolutely critical.’

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