Tuesday, July 11, 2023

New pilot boats for APA - revised

 The Atlantic Pilotage Authority (APA) has taken delivery of two lightly used pilot boats from the Port of Milford Haven in Wales. Named St.Brides and St.Govans, they were built in 2016 by Mainstay Marine in Pembroke Dock. The 48gt, 19.75m x 5.5m boats were designed by the noted pilot boat designers CAMARC for extreme weather. Powered by Cat engines of 670 hp, and good for 14 knots, they were rated for operation in 6 meter waves and tanker turbulence and were to be able to handle 1,000 boardings per year before maintenance.

The two boats arrived in Halifax today, July 11, on board the heavy lift ship BBC Virginia and were offloaded at Pier 9C using the ship's cranes.


 Once in the water Dominion Diving's Halmar shifted the boats, one at a time, to Dominion Diving's dock in Dartmouth Cove.

Pilot boardings in Halifax in particular have been difficult in recent years as some of the pilot boats are not suitable for operation in rough weather. Cancellations and delays have resulted. Perhaps these boats have been acquired to correct that situation. See correction below
I hope they work out here, as they were not successful in Milford Haven where they were declared "not fit for service"and placed on "operational pause" after only a couple of years use. Granted Milford Haven has just about the worst sea states of any of the world's ports, with huge Atlantic swells to cope with. But these boats were supposed to be designed for those conditions. Crew members however claimed they were built in a rush, were "cheap" and under powered. There were also concerns about the fenders.

The boats they were intended to replace were returned to service and tenders were issued for new boats for delivery in 2024.

A third sister boat the St.Davids "t-boned" a gas tanker and three crew members were injured, and the boat's bow severely damaged. It remains in Milford Haven.

When the boats were offered for sale, they were asking approximately US$1,000,000 each. Engines had about 1500 hours, and they were reported to be extremely well maintained and were ready to run.

Currently the APA operates two boats in Halifax. Capt E.T.Rogers (built orginally in 2010 as the Chebucto Pilot for Halifax) is an all weather boat. The sister boat Capt. A.G.Soppitt is used in Saint John, NB. Both were built by ABCO in Lunenburg.

APA also operates the smaller 20 knot boat Scotia Pilot in Halifax and its sister Nova Pilot in Saint John. The smaller boats use steerable jet propulsion and were built as crew boats - not as pilot boats. Built in 2012, they were purchased used in the Netherlands in 2017. They are not suitable for rough conditions.

BBC Virginia was built in 2010 by Jiangdong, Wuhu and measures 9618 gt, 12,657 dwt, and carries a pair of 180 tonne SWL cranes, which can be used in combinaiton for a 360 tonne lift. The ship is also rated to carry 665 TEU (nominal) or 528 TEU at 14 tonnes and has 50 reefer plugs. 
BBC Heavy Lift has come in for heavy criticism in Australia recently and has had two ships banned for multiple inspection failures. All BBC ships entering Australian waters will now require inpsection every three months until April 2024. In June BBCWeser was banned for 90 days and this month BBC Pearl was banned for 180 days after its second detainment.

BBC ships are frequent callers in Canadian ports, and are often seen on the Great Lakes, but I am not aware of any Port State Control detentions in the last three years.

Itwill be interesting to see if the new APA boats are repainted in higher visibility colours, as the current British Racing Green looks somewhat somber in the fog and rain.


I had heard that the APA was acquiring new boats for Halifax, and assumed (incorrectly) that these were the ones. Those boats are still under construction in Spain. 

Thanks to a reader, I have learned that the boats that arrived in Halifax today (July 11) are intended to replace the pilot boats in North Sydney and St.John's. Those legendary boats, built in the 1970s to Gulf of Mexico crew boat design and called "Breau boats" are aluminum hulled vessels of 680 hp, built at Breton Industrial and Marine in Point Tupper, NS. As of today A.P.A.No.1 (built 1976) is operating in North Sydney and A.P.A. No.18 (of 1974) is operating in St.John's. A third boat, A.P.A.No.20,  (also 1974) is laid up at the Dartmouth pilot dock.


Aside from eliminating the pilot house side doors, the boats are virtually unchanged since they were built. They are handsome boats with a distinctive colour scheme.


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