Five questions for Frank Kowalski, Managing Director at Safehaven Marine

published on 18 December 2020 437

In our new new section “Five questions for ..." introduces pilots and other market players to our readers in short interviews.

Today we have talked to  Frank Kowalski, Managing Director at Safehaven Marine

What does your company offer and what makes your company unique?
Safehaven Marine build a range of vessels for many different operational roles such as patrol, survey, crew transfer to name a few, but what makes us I believe unique is that we specialize in pilot boats, with 80% of our production dedicated to just this area and have supplied over 50 pilot craft all around the world over the last 17 years. This has allowed us to amass a great deal of experience in this very specialized area of boat design and engineering, as a pilot boat has to endure quite possibly the toughest and most challenging of operational roles. Coming alongside a ship at night in a gale with 5m+ waves and transferring a pilot aboard has to be the most demanding sea borne operation a coxswain can undertake and for the vessel to survive what is in effect a controlled collision many times daily, certainly is the most demanding of operational envelopes for a hulls structure and the vessels engineering to be capable of withstanding, day in and day out reliably for many years.

What is your job at Safehaven Marine and do you have to fulfill special requirements for the job?
I’m am the managing director at Safehaven Marine for some 25 years, but I am also the designer of Safehaven’s craft and responsible for the naval architecture, design, certification etc of all the different models, as well as being responsible for marketing and sales. When I was a young man I skippered my own Comercial boat offshore in Ireland, and I guess the years doing this gave me a fine understanding and respect for the sea, and an appreciation of what the term ‘good seakeeping’ meant having been caught out many times in bad weather. For sure this has helped in designing my hulls.

What is the best thing about your job and why?
The best thing about my job is seeing a new design germinate from an idea in my head, through the development process right through to the final launching of a new design, and then testing its capabilities offshore, and ultimately seeing the design working successfully for clients. With pilot boats this is especially gratifying as one knows the kind of adverse conditions a pilot boat has to endure regularly as part of its life, and knowing that on a really bad day she can be tested to her limits, which is rarely the case otherwise, as most boats stay tied up at a marina in really bad weather. Not so the case with pilot boats, and its only really SAR craft that must deal with the same conditions as an ‘all weather’ pilot boat operating off exposed Atlantic ports.

I’m also lucky that I have a couple of local pilot boats that Safehaven built at my home port of Cork Harbour, and am good friends with many of the pilots and crew there. As such I’ve been able to experience first-hand over the last 14 years what a pilot boat does and how the pilots and crew operate. Having watched with bated breath pilots climb up ships ladders and seen the skill of the coxswain’s coming along side in rough conditions I’ve developed the utmost respect for the pilots and crew. But also these experiences have helped me understand better the requirements of a pilot boat, and has allowed me to continuously refine design elements of my pilot boats over the years.

What is special about offering services/products for pilots?
I like to think that Safehaven’s pilot boats offer her crew and pilots a safe environment, where they can depend on the boat when heading out to board a ship on a bad day, and inspire confidence in all those aboard. I try to ensure that my designs handle really well and are a pleasure to helm, that they always poses high levels of seakeeping abilities, and are engineered to a high standard, a standard that has been learnt over the many years Safehaven have been building pilot boats, as the task they have to perform must represent one of the harshest of operating roles for any boat, and like so many things in life, experience is everything.

What is your opinion about
A great web site for pilots, I especially enjoy all the ship boarding videos that are posted there.

Editor's note:
Opinion pieces reflect the personal opinion of individual authors. They do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about a prevailing opinion in the respective editorial department. Opinion pieces might be deliberately formulated in a pronounced or even explicit tone and may contain biased arguments. They might be intended to polarise and stimulate discussion. In this, they deliberately differ from the factual articles you typically find on this platform, written to present facts and opinions in as balanced a manner as possible.

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Francesco Aiello Federazione Italiana Piloti dei Porti, Italy
on 19 December 2020, 10:35 UTC

I was delighted to read Frank Kowalski's answers. I agree with everything. I am planned a modification to the pilot boat main deck to avoiding the entrapment of the pilot ladder. A prototype has been built, you can see it in the article published on 21 April 2020 on marine I would be happy to know the opinion of Frank Kowalski


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