North America

New Pilot Boats Rely on Volvo Penta Propulsion

Volvo Penta is rapidly becoming the supplier-of-choice for propulsion systems on new pilot launches.

Volvo Penta IPS powered Pilot Launch going to meet a container vessel

These specialized vessels are used to transport ship pilots to and from deep sea vessels entering or leaving port. 

Recent pilot boats powered by Volvo Penta include newbuilds for the Virginia Pilot Association and Seaway Pilots, Inc., which were designed by C. Raymond Hunt Associates and constructed by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding. 

The new 56-ft. Virginia Pilots launch is powered by a pair of Volvo Penta D13 700 hp EPA Tier 3 engines matched with IPS-3 steerable pod drives with forward-facing counter-rotating props. The propulsion system includes Volvo Penta’s EVC electronic steering and control system with a three-axis joystick. Top speed is 33+ knots.

The Virginia Pilot Association decided to order the second IPS vessel based on positive experience with the first boat, which went into service in 2018. 

Peter Duclos, president of Gladding-Hearn, pointed out that with IPS the props and drives are close-coupled to the engines, allowing the deckhouse to be located further aft on the flush deck, improving comfort and creating a larger foredeck and more enclosed space. This configuration also permits easier access to the machinery space via deck hatches located aft of the wheelhouse.

The new 53-foot Seaway Pilots vessel has twin keel-cooled Volvo Penta D16 EPA Tier 3 diesels, each delivering 650 hp at 1,800 rpm, delivering a top speed of 23 knots. With an 800-gallon fuel tank, it has an operating range of more than 300 miles.

Pilot boats represent a growing market segment for Volvo Penta, according to Jens Bering, vice president of marine sales, Volvo Penta of the Americas. “Whether it’s an IPS or a straight inboard shaft drive, Volvo Penta’s engines have achieved an industry-wide reputation for unparalleled torque, power performance and dependability. These specialized vessels operate year-round 24/7 for pilot boarding regardless of winds, waves and weather, and they need a propulsion system that’s as tough as the job they do.”

Bering noted that the Maryland Pilot Association and the Associated Federal Pilots of Louisiana have also ordered new vessels with Volvo Penta power from Gladding-Hearn, with deliveries scheduled in 2021.