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New pilot boat arrives in Valdez

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Emerald Island

The Southwest Alaska Pilots Association’s newest pilot boat, Emerald Island, is now at work.

Built by Somerset, Mass-based Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, the Emerald Island arrived by ship in Victoria, BC on December 22 and underwent final sea trials before making the voyage to Valdez, AK.

“She will provide our pilots with the stable and secure platform required for them to handle the dynamic and unpredictable weather conditions that we may encounter performing our work 24 hours a day, seven days a week each year,” says Capt. Ron Ward II, SWAPA pilot.

With a length overall of 75.7’, beam of 20.6’ and draft of 3.11’, the all-aluminum pilot boat features the Ray Hunt-designed Deep V hull. It is powered by twin Cummins QSK38-M1, EPA Tier 3 diesel engines, each delivering 1,400 bhp at 1,800 rpm and connected to twin ZF-5000 gear =boxes. The launch is propelled by a pair of Hamilton HM651 water jets. Top speed is 29 knots. Humphree interceptors, with Active Ride Control and Automatic Trim Optimization, were installed at the transom. Two Northern Lights 30 kW generators produce electricity.

“Everything about this new boat speaks to the demands of our work environment as Alaska pilots,” Ward said. “The Emerald Island will be stationed in Valdez, AK and will primarily be providing a year round service to tankers carrying crude oil from the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS) terminal. Our customers expect their ships to transit without delays and we are grateful for their collaboration which was essential to ensure this vessel project was a success. This ‘all weather’ pilot boat will allow us to safely satisfy the demands of our customers and help us to endeavor to keep Alaska’s economy strong.”

The wheelhouse, mounted to the flush deck amidships, features direct glaze-heated windows. It is outfitted with six Norsap shock-mitigating seats, a settee, berth, and a small galley behind the pilot seats. An eight-camera LCD CCTV system was installed in the wheelhouse, with four cameras mounted in the engine room and two cameras in the jet room. On deck are two cameras, one looking forward and one aft.

The forecastle includes two staterooms, head with a shower, dressing area and hanging lockers. Interior sound levels at full power are under 74 dBA.

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