IPS-driven Manatee step up for Tampa Bay pilots

Manatee 1

Manatee, fast and sleek and seeming to come out of nowhere, snugged up abreast of the pilot’s ladder on the hull of the 611-foot break-bulk ship Texas Enterprise. Capt. John Timmel, a 29-year veteran and senior pilot with the Tampa Bay Pilots Association, descended the ladder and stepped aboard the new pilot boat.

Built at Gladding-Hearn in Somerset, Mass., the 53-foot Manatee is the latest evolution of the C. Raymond Hunt Chesapeake-class, high-speed, deep-V hull design. Gladding-Hearn and Hunt have a design/build venture that dates back to the 1970s. The aluminum craft addresses three attributes sought in pilot boats the world over: speed, fuel efficiency and comfort.

Manatee is powered by dual Volvo Penta IPS 650MC propulsion pods driven by a pair of 503-hp Volvo Penta D11 diesels. “In a loaded condition, the power package gives the Manatee a 27-knot top speed,” said Peter Duclos, president of Gladding-Hearn.

Forward-facing twin counter-rotating propellers, located ahead of the stem, allow the IPS pod system to pull the boat through undisturbed water. “It burns about 25 to 28 percent less fuel than conventional propeller drives,” Duclos said.

The pods also act as the rudders, each with a radius of 70 degrees, facilitating tighter turns than conventional pilot boats. “Instead of forcing the thrust over the rudder, the thrust is directed to steer the stern in the direction appropriate for the turn,” said Capt. Jorge Viso, another veteran pilot with 27 years of experience in Tampa Bay.

With Stephan Jean at the helm, Manatee heads to pick up Capt. John Timmel aboard the break-bulk carrier Texas Enterprise outbound from the Port of Tampa. 

Mounted directly through the hull, the pods consist of the transmission, outdrive and propellers. There are no shafts, struts or rudders. This allows the engines and the superstructure to be mounted farther aft, which in turn allows for the five Stidd passenger seats to be fixed aft of the center of gravity, improving comfort. Humphree Interceptor trim tabs that automatically optimize the trim of the boat at a given speed provide additional comfort and fuel efficiency.

The superstructure placement also allows for a larger, and hence safer, foredeck for the pilots to board and disembark a ship.

Timmel, following his transit aboard Texas Enterprise — a passage requiring 3.5 hours of constant concentration — explained that each Tampa Bay pilot on a two-week turnaround conducts 18 to 24 ship moves along more than 40 miles of channels connecting the sea buoy with the Port of Tampa.

The addition of Manatee to Tampa’s pilot boat fleet makes those demands a little easier to handle. It is very comfortable at cruising speed and is significantly more fuel efficient than the fleet’s conventional propeller boats, “which is in and of itself remarkable,” Timmel said. “It is especially noteworthy as, with her Volvo Penta IPS drives, the Manatee’s cruising speed is 4 to 5 knots faster than any of our other boats.”

The increased speed allows the pilots to combine boardings and disembarkations that previously required them to use separate boats, he said. With fewer hours per tour aboard a pilot boat, Tampa Bay pilots get more rest.

“Overall, we are very pleased with the increases in efficiency the Manatee has brought to our operations,” Timmel said.


The boat’s two Volvo Penta D11 diesels each deliver 503 hp.


Timmel relaxes in one of the pilot boat’s Stidd passenger seats after transferring from Texas Enterprise.


The transom on Manatee.


Manatee’s transom features a winch-operated rotating davit over a recessed platform for pilot rescue operations.


By Professional Mariner Staff