Work Boat World – September 2012
This issue of WORK BOAT WORLD incorporates our bi-annual Patrol, Pilot and Rescue Craft Survey. As always it includes some brilliant new boats, innovative designs and rapid changes in the boat-building process.
That the boats improve year-by-year is to be expected. So do cars, aircraft, computers and television sets, for example. However, if you think back, say, 30 years or nearly the life of this magazine, the changes can be put into better perspective.
The improvements have been dramatic. First of all the whole sector has become truly global in approach. Last year, for example, we saw Scottish designed, American built pilot boats delivered to The Netherlands.
We are seeing Australian and New Zealand designed pilot boats delivered in the United States and Malaysia. At the same time we have seen Finnish designed and built patrol boats delivered to Germany which has also received a flotilla of Finnish built pilot boats.
This means that all concerned: designers; builders; engine and propulsion system manufacturers; in fact, nearly all suppliers, are working with a truly global market. No one just builds for a national market anymore. If they do, they are unlikely to survive for long.
Because of this, I suspect, all the components of such craft are being steadily improved to satisfy a very demanding market. Even the seemingly less expensive and unimportant bits such as paint and safety equipment have improved out of sight.
Design improvements are often obvious but still a lot of good things are happening out of sight and often beneath the waterline. Hull shapes are more efficient and more seaworthy. Accommodation is more comfortable and, importantly, boats are mostly faster and more economical to run.
Who, thirty years ago would possibly have imagined that a large proportion of modern patrol and rescue craft of up to about 13 metres in length would be outboard powered? Yet that is exactly what has happened.
Outboard motors, for example, have become dramatically more fuel efficient, quieter and user-friendly. Once the Japanese manufacturers started to compete head-on with the north Americans, the picture changed amazingly.
Similarly, construction materials have also changed out of sight. Aluminium and FRP composites (often very sophisticated composites) have become de rigueur. Nowadays a large proportion of patrol, rescue and, even, pilot boats are rigid inflatables or RIBs.
Safety, economy, seaworthiness, comfort and economic efficiency have all improved significantly year by year. This has kept the market moving forward.
Where once a pilot or patrol boat was expected to have a useful economic life of 25 years, now they are starting to look very old-fashioned after 10. This does not mean that they are obsolete or worn out. It simply means that new craft do the same job more efficiently and more economically.
Much the same rapid development has occurred with operational procedures. Whole approaches have changed for the better. A great example of this is what happened with the Hong Kong Marine Police a few years ago. Their whole approach to patrolling changed with massive improvements in economics, crew efficiency and personnel satisfaction resulting.
The patrol, pilot and rescue craft sector is a very exciting one. Its developments and improvements are inspiring and I am sure will be adopted in many other sectors of the wider work boat industry.
Ferry Safety Forum
Regular readers will be well aware of, if not bored by, my focus (obsession?) on passenger vessel safety. I do know that many of you share my views and that some even are trying to do something about it.
In an endeavour to help bring great minds together and spread the word further, I am promoting a couple of initiatives.
The first is that we have established a Ferry Safety Forum on Linkedin. It is freely available to anyone interested and all ideas and suggestions are welcome.
Similarly, we are organising a one day forum or conference alongside our ASIAN WORK BOAT Exhibition in Singapore next February. That will also offer free access to anyone interested. We will also welcome presentations from anyone who thinks he or she can improve ferry safety, particularly in the developing world.
Although IMO seemingly does not welcome contributions directly from industry, we will welcome any contributions that remote bureaucracy can make through our forum.