PORT of Townsville has announced it is expanding its fleet of pilot boats to four.  

Management awarded Hart Marine a $3m contract to build a 17.3metre ORC vessel that is due for delivery later this year.

The new high-tech vessel is to be slightly longer but have the same design features as the PV Osprey which was delivered by Hart Marine in late 2017.

Port of Townsville General Manager Operations Drew Penny said the new longer pilot boat’s advanced technology and design features would make it a vital asset for pilot-transfers at the ports of Townsville, Lucinda and Abbot Point.

“Weather conditions at the three ports that our pilot boats service can be unpredictable, particularly in the wet season,” Mr Penny said.

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“It is essential that our pilot vessels provide a stable and secure platform for the pilots to transfer to and from ships 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Design features include the ability to right itself if it capsizes in heavy seas.

The boat is to also have oversized rudders that give it greater manoeuvrability, wide side-decks that provide more room for pilots, as well as a wave-piercing beak bow to minimise pitching.

Every year, the Port of Townsville’s pilot boats do 1200 transfers to and from vessels longer than 50 metres that are entering and departing the port.

The Port’s pilot boats travel 139km north to Lucinda and 200km south to Abbot Point to provide the same service to vessels using those Ports.

“The pilot boat service that we provide to the Ports of Abbot Point and Lucinda adds an extra 700 trips to those that are undertaken at the Port of Townsville,” Mr Penny said.

“The extra vessel will allow us to provide a better service at all three ports, with less time spent travelling from Townsville.” 

Hart Marine general manager Graeme Taylor said the new boat met the demands of the work environment of North Queensland tropical waters.

This includes a cruising speed of 26 knots, a unique wave-piercing bow design to increase performance and safety and a suspended wheelhouse reducing noise and vibration.

“Our customers expect ships to transit without delays, so the all-weather pilot boat we are building allows the Port of Townsville to keep ships moving and avoid delays,” Mr Taylor said.

“Our experience in pilot boat construction will deliver a vessel that satisfies the requirements of the marine pilots who guide ships in and out of Townsville, Lucinda and Abbot Point.” 

Port of Townsville’s increased pilot boat fleet is to mean more efficient ship movements, fewer delays as well as reduced costs for shipping companies. The name of the new pilot boat is to be announced later in the year.

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