PILOTS, FIRE, PATROL: Aluminum floats more boats in niche markets of all types

Independence, a Robert Allan-designed fireboat from Derecktor. Coming in 2010: two fast fireboats from Eastern Ship-building for New York City. (Courtesy Derecktor Shipyards)

There continues to be significant activity in the market for small aluminum pilot, fire, research and patrol vessels.

Pilot boats

At least on the East Coast, the pilot boat market continues to be dominated by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding of Somer-set, Mass., which turns out four to six of these vessels per year, depending on the level of other contracts. Its most recent design is the Chesa-peake class by C. Raymond Hunt Associates.

This design features a deep-V hull and is 6 inches longer, wider on deck and with an additional 6 inches of freeboard than some earlier models. There are 10 vessels of the Chesapeake class operating today and 68 Gladding-Hearn pilot boats in the U.S. and Central America.

The latest delivery is Mayport for the St. Johns Bar Pilot Association of Jackson-ville, Fla. The all-aluminum vessel is 53.5 feet long with an 18-foot beam, a 4.8-foot draft, and a top speed of 26 knots.

Twin 600 hp Lugger diesels power Twin Disc gears that turn ZF five-blade NiBrAl propellers. A 13 kW genset by Kohler supplies the ship’s power. There are port and starboard air-actuated boarding platforms on the roof of the pilothouse, which is located amidships.

On the West Coast, Kvichak Marine Industries of Seattle delivered the Camarc-designed 72-footer Columbia to the Columbia River Bar Pilots.

First-responder boats

The terrorism threat is fueling a demand for patrol boats and other vessels for use by the military and by civilian first-responders. Companies that have been building small aluminum workboats for decades have retooled their marketing and updated their vessel designs to serve these markets. New companies have also stepped in.

Bill Munson Boats of Burlington, Wash., and SeaArk Marine of Monticello, Ark., are two high-volume builders that are seeing great success while continuing to serve more traditional markets.

The SeaArk 27-foot Commander RAM is a favorite among fire, police and other first-responders. The Memorial Volunteer Fire Company in Milford, Del., for example, uses its Commander for firefighting and rescue in the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Powered by pair of 225 hp Yamaha outboards, the vessel can reach 40 knots.

Munson specializes in a landing craft-design vessel called Packman. The cabin is aft and the vessels feature a bow ramp. Munson builds 45 to 50 boats of this style a year in both monohull and catamaran designs. The Deep River (Mass.) Fire Depart-ment recently purchased a 24-foot Packman as a fire/rescue boat. A monohull, it uses a single Mercury 250 hp outboard.

Last fall Moose Boats of Petaluma, Calif., delivered a 35-foot patrol boat for law enforcement, search-and-rescue and fire fighting to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It will work out of Marina del Rey, covering the entire county shoreline. With twin Cummins 425 hp turbo diesels and Hamilton waterjets, the vessel can reach a top speed of 37 knots. Service speed is 28 knots.

Military patrol boats

Columbia, a 72-foot pilot boat for the Columbia River Bar Pilots from Kvichak Marine Industries of Seattle. (Jennifer Rose courtesy Kvichak Marine)

Bollinger Shipyards, of Lockport, La., continues to get contract extensions for its popular 87-foot U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat with a stern-mounted rigid inflatable. The original contract was for 56 boats; the latest extension adds six more, all for 2008 delivery.

A joint venture between Marinette Marine, of Marin-ette, Wis., and Kvichak in Seattle, has led to a contract extension of $35 million for the partnership to continue building 45-foot medium response boats for the U.S. Coast Guard. The extension is for 18 boats.

The contract calls for construction and delivery of 250 vessels over nearly a decade. Thirty boats are now under contract; delivery of the latest 18 will begin in the third quarter of 2009. The two shipyards share equally in production.

Less well known for this type of vessel is United States Marine Inc., with shipyards in Gulfport, Miss., and New Orleans. The yard builds for the U.S. Navy and more recently for the Sultanate of Oman, for which it is constructing three Coast Guard vessels.

The company specializes in a 90-foot by 18-foot fast patrol boat with a hull and superstructure made of a fiberglass composite. The boat is powered by a pair of MTU 12V 4000 M90 engines rated at 2,375 hp each driving a pair of Kamewa/Rolls-Royce 56SII waterjets. Maximum speed is listed as 45 knots, although the vessel achieved 50-plus on sea trials. There are accommodations for 12, including three staterooms for officers.

Another important new vessel is the Long Range Interceptor (LRI) from Willard Marine, of Anaheim, Calif. This 35-foot aluminum vessel is designed to be launched and recovered from the stern ramp of the U.S. Coast Guard’s new National Security Cutter; its bow horn is designed to operate with the unique capture mechanism installed in the cutter.

The LRI’s propulsion package is a pair of Cummins QSC 8.3 600 hp engines, with Twin Disc gears and Hamil-ton waterjets. Maximum speed is 45 knots, and the vessel operates with a crew of two and up to 12 passengers. In May, the LRI passed sea trials in a variety of sea states.

Another small company has also done big things for the military, this time the U.S. Marine Corps. Aluminum Chambered Boats, of Belling-ham, Wash., is just eight years old and has doubled its building capacity due to demand. The company has a proprietary design using airtight chambers that form the sides and bow of the boat. V-shaped bottoms are welded to these, creating a reverse chine.

The company has just completed delivery of 60 so-called bridge erection boats to the Marines. These 26-foot vessels do a lot more than carry bridge components; they support diving operations, conduct inland water patrols and carry out hydrographic missions.

The company’s latest contract calls for it to build 48 rigid inflatables, 24 feet long, to be deployed aboard Coast Guard cutters.

Other building for the military includes eight 43-foot boats for the U.S. Army from Evans Boats, of Crisfield, Md.

Research vessels

VT Halter Marine, of Pascagoula, Miss., recently delivered Pisces, the third of four fishing research vessels, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The vessel is identical to Oscar K. Dyson and Henry B. Bigelow, delivered in 2005 and 2006. Halter is building a fourth vessel, Bell M. Shimada, and a 124-foot SWATH (small water-plane-area twin hull) coastal mapping vessel, Ferdinand R. Hassler, both for 2009 delivery.

NOAA also had West Coast aluminum shipbuilder All American Marine build an 82.75-foot by 30-foot research vessel to operate offshore in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 100 miles south of the Louisiana-Texas border.

R/V Manta will host scientists studying seafloor mapping and monitoring the health of ocean species and reefs. The vessel is of catamaran design to provide a stable platform in the choppy Gulf.

Two Caterpillar C32 engines rated at 1,600 hp each power a pair of ZF gearboxes that drive two Hamilton HM571 waterjets for a maximum speed of 27 knots fully laden. Manta has a hydraulic A-frame, a Kinematics Marine hydraulic trawl winch, a Markey Machinery scientific winch and a Morgan Marine articulating knuckle crane.

A pair of Northern Lights 65 kW generators handle the ship’s electrical needs. Oversize dive platforms can accommodate 20 divers and there is a Nitrox compressor, a fully equipped dive bottle fill station and three dive showers. Manta has accommodations and a galley for 14 people for five consecutive days. It can handle 25 people on day trips.


An important fireboat was delivered to the City of Philadelphia at the end of 2007. Robert Allan Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C., designed the vessel, Independence, which was built by Derecktor Shipyards of Bridgeport, Conn., now struggling through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization as the result of lawsuit involving construction of the world’s largest sailing catamaran.

A key design consideration was shallow draft. The boat will range from as far north as Trenton, N.J., south to the Delaware Bay, an area with extreme air draft and water depth constraints, including 18-foot clearance under city bridges. The hull was strengthened for winter ice.

Another design feature is a shared propulsion/firefighting system. Independence, which cost about $5 million, has four main engines connected to Hamilton waterjets. The vessel has a normal response speed of 28 knots, but through careful weight management it was able to achieve a full-load speed during trials of 36 knots.

Once on scene, the two inboard engines can be de-clutched from the waterjets to drive the fire pumps while the exterior engines are used for maneuverability and heading.

Four MTU Series 60 diesels develop 625 hp each and the waterjets are Hamil-ton HJ403s. A pair of Onan diesel gensets supply the ship’s power and are rated at 27.5 kW each, with full battery backup for critical systems.

Independence holds 1,699 gallons of fuel, enough for eight hours of continuous firefighting, including deployment and return to base. The fireboat features a pair of 2,750 gpm engine-driven fire pumps and four monitors. One is remote-controlled on a hinged platform for elevated operations and three have manual controls.

All fuel is in tanks de-tached from the main hull to mitigate any danger of fuel spill, and the vessel contains a pair of towboat-style push knees on the bow to hold station against vessels or piers.

By Professional Mariner Staff