Forth Ports (UK) orders two new pilot boats for Rivers Forth and Tay

by Forth Ports Group - published on 27 February 2024 0 -

Picture and text courtesy Forth Ports Group

Forth Ports, the UK’s third largest port group, has placed an order for two new pilot boats to join their fleet working on the Rivers Forth and Tay. The investment in the vessels to work on the busy waterways will see the arrival next year of the next generation of pilot boats built by Holyhead Marine.

Pilot boats* are important vessels on the river as they transport maritime pilots to the ships that need guided safely into port through the lock gates in Leith and Grangemouth, to a berth at a quayside in Dundee or Rosyth or to one of the deep-water anchorages in the River Forth. As the statutory river authority for the Forth and Tay, Forth Ports marine team operate over an area of 280 square miles of navigable waters.

The two pilot boats have been designed in Scotland by Camarc Design and will be built this year by Holyhead Marine in Wales. The pilot boats are 16.6 metres long and are the most advanced boats in operation with an updated hull design and engines offering increased efficiency. In the future, the engines would be capable of operating on HVO fuel (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) which could result in a C02 emission reduction of up to 90%. [**NB: further tech info is listed below]

Alan McPherson, Chief Harbour Master for Forth Ports’ Scottish operations, said: “It is important that we invest in our marine fleet to deliver the best service for river users and at the same time, decarbonise our vessels using the very latest engine technology. The Rivers Forth and Tay are two of the largest and busiest waterways in the UK with thousands of vessels using the rivers each year, ranging from very large offshore drilling rigs in Dundee, to container vessels heading to Grangemouth and cruise liners sailing into both rivers. We look forward to receiving the new pilot boats next year.”

Forth Ports currently has 5 pilot boats and 11 tugs operating across the River Forth and Tay.


* The pilot vessel is commanded by a Coxswain and crew, who are experts in small boat handling. They take pilots to and from ships in sometimes challenging conditions, but always with safety being the number one priority. Pilot vessels are specially designed for the job and are designed to work in a challenging environment. The majority of vessels over 40m length will need a Pilot. The type of vessels will range from small coasters, container vessels through to cruise vessels and very large crude carriers (VLCC). The Forth Pilots are expert mariners, with specialised local knowledge and ship handling skills. Once on board they will liaise with the Master and bridge team, taking control of the conduct of the navigation. They will guide them safely into port through the lock gates, to a berth at a quayside or to one of the anchorages in the river.

** Designed by Camarc Design and built by Holyhead Marine. The pilot boats are 16.6m in overall length with a hull of 15.9m and breadth of 5.3m. The boats will each be fitted with a pair of Scania DI13 units developing 550bhp @ 1800 rpm complete with Twin Disc “Quickshift” MGX-5136SC Gearboxes and readily achieves a maximum speed of 24 knots at MCR with full load. They have a range of 270 nautical miles at 18 knots. The vessel is certified to the MCA Code of Practice for Safety of Small Workboats and Pilot Boats as a Category 2 Pilot Boat.

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