The ORC 171 Fast Pilot Craft, designed by French Naval Architect Pantocarene, is the latest thinking in pilot boat design with a planing hull carefully constructed for both strength and lightness, an innovative beak bow design that steadies pitching and allows higher speeds in bad weather, a specially developed skeg aft to enhance directional stability and a separate wheelhouse construction on resilient mountings to keep noise and vibration to a minimum for the pilots and crew.
The hull shape and beak bow combine to make the boat handle heavy seas in more comfort than traditionally, give the boat a faster service speed, and allow her to stay alongside a ship at higher speeds and then pull away more easily. The hull design and attention to detail in construction make a significant reduction in fuel consumption, evident from the power required to operate the boat in service.
The first two ORC 171 pilot vessels are working alongside more traditionally designed vessels of a similar size on the same work pattern, but at a higher service speed, and are showing a saving in fuel alone of around £80,000 per year per boat.
All these capabilities make them cost-effective for both the owners, and their shipowner customers who lose less time at the pilot station.
Earlier boats based on a similar design are in operation throughout the world, but Estuary Elan and Estuary Elite, built for Estuary Services Ltd. for operation in the Outer Thames estuary and the Southern North Sea, are the first in the UK.
Their performance so far reinforces the view that they will not be the last.