Awards 2022 | Best Remote Area Pilot Boat – RUBANI 1 – Southerly Designs

published on 13 March 2023 79 -

Picture and original article by BAIRD Maritime

Southerly Designs is renowned for its safe, rugged and reliable pilot vessels that were originally developed from the firm’s experience designing Western Australian lobster boats. Southerly’s pilot boats have proved ideal for operations in remote ports such as the huge West Australian iron ore ports.

With considerable experience of tropical operations, this flotilla of pilot boats for Dar es Salaam and other ports in Tanzania will be right at home.

“This series of three pilot boats represent a significant upgrade in vessel design and capability in the East Africa region,” Southerly told Baird Maritime. “They are also our first pilot boat newbuilding projects wherein steel was used in the construction.”

Steel was chosen as it provides better stability in the choppy seas of the region where the boats will operate.

The design and construction encountered challenges. For Southerly, it was working in the East Africa region, where considerable forward planning became necessary due to the limited availability of material and equipment.

For the builder, Covid-19 restrictions required the scaling-down of construction activities that commenced just as the pandemic was first felt locally. Fortunately, Southerly was able to help overcome this limitation through clear, unambiguous communication with clients.

“The biggest current trend is the growing demand for low-emission and alternative propulsion arrangements,” Southerly told Baird Maritime when asked about the present state of the naval architecture sector. “There is considerable enthusiasm in the market for all manner of green solutions. However, it is still a significant challenge to specify suitable practical solutions for high-speed vessels.
The designer cited issues such as large battery sizes, impractical storage arrangements for LNG and other fuels, insufficient energy density for small fast vessels, and limitations in the advantages offered by diesel-electric propulsion.

“However, we continue to explore new technology as well as creative approaches to emissions reduction wherever we can.”

Even with these issues, 2022 proved to be a good year for Southerly across multiple sectors.

“We are certainly optimistic about the future and continue to pursue a diversity of vessel types and industry sectors in order to ride out the inevitable cyclical nature of shipbuilding.”

Southerly added that demand for pilot boats globally remains consistent. In fact, following the launch of the three pilot boats for Tanzania, the company has had two additional smaller, steel-hulled vessels launched in the UAE and three aluminium vessels on order back home in Australia. OHS considerations continue to become a greater focus in pilotage operations, leading to the modernisation of older vessels and upgrades in terms of vessel size, comfort, and solutions for ship-to-ship transfers.

“The Australian workboat industry is quite variable across different sectors,” the company told Baird Maritime. “Oil and gas and offshore work continues to rely on older and converted vessels as it seems the contractual environment for owners and operators does not offer sufficient length or security of contracts to enable them to finance and supply new purpose-built vessels. However, new pilot vessels do seem to have sufficient security of contract or at least to enable new constructions, of which we have several under contract.”

The company added that fishing vessel construction in the country has slowed, particularly in the niche of lobster fishing vessels, but changing circumstances surrounding key markets may see some additional confidence return to this sector.

“We believe an adjustment of contracting arrangements in the offshore sector could bring forward a considerable increase in the quality and capability of vessels in that sector, whereas some government sectors could see increased efficiencies by standardising some of their vessels and ordering in quantity. Also, as with all sectors, advances in propulsion technology will continue to be at the forefront for many designs in the near future.”
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