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Pilot precision

Ship & Boat International: eNews February 2019



Louisiana, US-based boatbuilder Metal Shark has delivered an aluminium monohull pilot boat to the Brazos Pilots Association of Texas. Located in the coastal city of Freeport, which enjoys unrestricted access to the Gulf of Mexico, this association provides around-the-clock services to a number of high-profile offshore energy operators, including BP, Dow Chemical and Phillips 66.


Christened Brazos Pilot, the vessel is a customised version of Metal Shark’s 64 Defiant Pilot class, tailored to the association’s particular operational conditions in Freeport. The boat matches a length of 19.5m to a 5.79m beam and features a deep-V hull, intended to promote stable operation in heavy sea states. A large pilot transfer platform, featuring a non-skid stairway and safety rails, was incorporated into Brazos Pilot’s foredeck, at the customer’s request.


The climate-controlled wheelhouse features reverse-raked windows in a “pillarless” arrangement, for unobstructed visibility. The wheelhouse contains shock-mitigating seating solutiions for five crew members, each seat including a footrest, cup holder, gooseneck light and 100V USB plug. Brazos Pilot has also been fitted with overhead skylights for upward visibility when the boat is moving towards or operating alongside moving ships. Metal Shark adds: “Visibility is further augmented by the vessel’s centreline helm position.”


Wheelhouse kit includes three 19” Furuno MU195T touch-screen displays, which can be used to access GPS, AIS, radar and depth sounder info. These screens also display real-time video captured by an onboard FLIR M400 thermal imaging camera and two CCTV cameras in the engine room. The wheelhouse also contains a stairwell which leads to the crew quarters, below deck: this area can also be accessed via a watertight access hatch in the foredeck, Metal Shark says. Crew comforts include a microwave-equipped gallery area, a coffee maker and a refrigerator, as well as a 4K LED TV with Blu Ray player and a KVH TracVision TV3 satellite television system.


A secondary control station, complete with steering and throttle controls, has been mounted on the aft deck for enhanced vessel manouevring in close quarters. This station also boasts digital displays, so that the operator can maintain an eye on the onboard systems – checking engine peformance, for example. For crew and pilot safety, Brazos Pilot has been furnished with fully flush, non-skid decks, complemented by hand rails and low-level LED pathway lighting.  


Brazos Pilot is powered by a pair of Caterpillar C18 diesel engines, each rated just under 600kW. These feed twin, five-bladed, NiBrAl propellers through Twin Disc transmissions, providing a service speed of approximately 18knots and surpassing 28knots when pushed to the limit. The vessel’s deep-V hull, meanwhile, “could easily accommodate more power if required to meet the mission profiles of other pilot groups,” Metal Shark comments. The newbuild replaces an existing single-screw, 12.2m boat which the Brazos Pilots Association has utilised up until now.