A new £1.2 million boat that will work at Ramsgate and Sheerness has just come into service as part of a fleet of ‘cutters’ that are busy in the Thames estuary every day.
Estuary Esprit is part of the fleet run by Estuary Services Limited (ESL) – a joint venture between the Port of London Authority (PLA) and Peel Ports. Built by Goodchild Marine Services Limited in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, she is the first 13.6-metre long ‘ORC’ pilot boat to enter service in the UK.
ESL transfers pilots to more than 10,000 ships in the Thames every year, including cruise ships, container vessels, tankers and general cargo carriers. The expert mariners they deliver board ships over 90 metres long, ready to use their in-depth knowledge of the Thames to guide the vessels upriver to dock safely at jetties on the Thames and the Medway.
Peter Steen, PLA director of marine operations and ESL operations director,said: “The Thames and Medway make up one of the busiest port complexes in the UK. A reliable fleet of manoeuvrable boats is essential to give our customers the confidence that we can get expert pilots out to their ships, day in, day out, in all but the very worst weather conditions.
“Our 100-plus pilots play a vital role in keeping the Thames safe. Without them, container ships could not deliver their cargoes of everyday products, and cruise ships could not bring their passengers in to enjoy our capital city. It’s important we continue to invest in our fleet to ensure that we can meet our customer’s needs and provide improved safety and working conditions for our crews.”
The new boat, which can work at Ramsgate or Sheerness, offers substantial improvements in safety and efficiency for all on board.
‘Tried and tested’
Andrew Thompson, ESL operations manager said: “With ongoing development of marine technology, the ‘ORC’ design offers a range of benefits. The beak-shaped bow allows it to cut through waves, rather than ‘slam’ into them; and the improved hull lines minimise spray, as well as giving those on board a more comfortable ride. It is quieter, lighter, stable in sea conditions and more manoeuvrable, making it safer and more fuel efficient. This boat is already tried, tested and its success proven, with two other ORC design vessels already in service with us.
“This latest 13.6-metre long boat is very different to what we’ve had before, so the crews who will operate her have had training. Now we have completed the Ramsgate training, the vessel has entered service and will run here for a month or so before we commence training for the Sheerness crews.”
Other ORCs in production at Goodchild’s yard include the UK’s first hybrid pilot cutter, ordered by the PLA for operations at its Gravesend pilot station.