VESSEL REVIEW | Balchik – Bulgarian Border Police acquires multi-role vessel

Best Medium Patrol Boat – Balchik (Photo: Baltic Workboats)
Best Medium Patrol Boat – Balchik (Photo: Baltic Workboats)

Estonian builder Baltic Workboats has completed the final series of sea trials of a new patrol boat ordered by the Bulgarian Border Police. Named Balchik after a town on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, the new boat has an aluminium hull and superstructure, an LOA of 44.6 metres, a beam of 8.8 metres, a maximum draught of 2.6 metres, and space for 22 crewmembers.

"The design is based on a well-proven patented wave-piercing hull capable of handling the most challenging conditions," Rimo Timm, Head of Sales at Baltic Workboats, told Baird Maritime. "The vessel is a second in a series of 45-metre patrol craft, with the first one delivered in 2018 to the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board."

<em>Photo: Baltic Workboats</em>
Photo: Baltic Workboats

Timm added that the Bulgarian Border Police was very thoroughly involved in the vessel's design process, thus ensuring that all the solutions incorporated into the vessel are made exactly according to the agency's requirements.

"The owner's main demand was that the vessel would have redundant systems, as it will be operating regularly in conjunction with the enforcement agencies of European partner nations. All essential systems therefore needed to possess multiple back-ups and emergency operating systems.

Timm said that although the Covid-19 pandemic posed challenges with regards to travel restrictions, costs, and availability of materials, all these were eventually overcome, and the resulting vessel satisfied the owner's requirements.

"I believe the most important learning point was that we needed to re-plan production activities according to changing environmental conditions and restrictions. We also have valuable experience in building similar-sized vessels for the same owner, and so we were able to determine that the new vessel's capabilities make it ideal for handling the conditions in those waters."

<em>Photo: Baltic Workboats</em>
Photo: Baltic Workboats

Balchik will also be operated in cooperation with Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. The vessel's areas of operation will encompass the Mediterranean and Black Seas and Bulgaria's territorial waters. Missions will include anti-illegal immigration, search and rescue (SAR), and firefighting support.

"The new boat will also provide the border police with expanded capability, as it is larger and more seaworthy than an earlier vessel in the owner's fleet. This means that operations can be carried out in heavier sea states and that patrolling range and endurance are increased. It will also provide the crew with more ergonomic and comfortable working conditions."

Balchik features a conventional propulsion system of two main engines with two reduction gears, two shaftlines, and two fixed-pitch propellers. The main engines are MTU 16V4000 M65Ls that each produce 2,560 kW and drive ZF 9350 gearboxes. Bow and stern thrusters from Side-Power guarantee precise manoeuvring and position keeping.

<em>Photo: Baltic Workboats</em>
Photo: Baltic Workboats

"We installed an in-house-developed integrated automation, monitoring, and control system (IAMCS) that is tailor-made according to specific vessel and customer requirements," Timm told Baird Maritime. "This system allows the crew to control all main and auxiliary systems via a single touchscreen. The system is fully class-compliant and utilises only equipment from well-known manufacturers such as Wago and Deif."

The propulsion delivers a speed of 30 knots and a range of 1,650 nautical miles or a maximum endurance of 10 days at a cruising speed of 15 knots. Naiad Dynamics active stabilising fins and an anti-roll tank are already incorporated to help improve stability, though the vessel can be fitted with gyrostabilisers to further enhance stability at low speeds.

The electronics suite also includes JRC and Simrad navigation equipment, two Seematz searchlights, and a Trakka TC-300M thermal imaging camera to allow patrols and SAR missions to be safely executed even under low-light conditions.

<em>Photo: Baltic Workboats</em>
Photo: Baltic Workboats

Deck space is also available for two rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) to be operated as daughtercraft. The five-metre RIB is stored on the main deck and is launched using a dedicated HS.Marine crane while the seven-metre RIB is stored in a special enclosed aft compartment and launched via a stern ramp. The RIB launch crane may also be used for cargo loading duties. For firefighting, the vessel relies on a remotely controlled monitor mounted on the foredeck.

Power for the onboard systems is supplied by two Volvo Penta D5 86kW generators. The crew accommodation spaces meanwhile include cabins, a medical bay, a mess, a galley, sanitary spaces, and stores areas. One compartment will be used for holding individuals who have been detained following at-sea boardings.

Balchik
SPECIFICATIONS
Type of vessel:Patrol vessel
Flag:Bulgaria
Owner:Bulgarian Border Police
Builder:Baltic Workboats, Estonia
Hull construction material:Aluminium
Superstructure construction material:Aluminium
Length overall:44.6 metres
Beam:8.8 metres
Draught:2.6 metres
Main engines:2 x MTU 16V4000 M65L, each 2,560 kW
Gearboxes:2 x ZF 9350
Propulsion:2 x fixed-pitch propellers
Generators:2 x Volvo Penta D5, each 86 kW
Side thrusters:Side-Power SH1400; Side-Power SH550
Maximum speed:30 knots
Cruising speed:15 knots
Range:1,650 nautical miles
Night vision:Trakka TC-300M
Other electronics:JRC; Simrad
Crane:HS.Marine
Other equipment installed:Anti-roll tank; Naiad Dynamics stabilising fins
Searchlights:2 x Seematz
Firefighting equipment:Monitor
Tenders:2
Fuel capacity:39,800 litres
Freshwater capacity:6,400 litres
Blackwater capacity:4,200 litres
Accommodation:Cabins; medical bay; mess; galley; sanitary spaces; stores areas; detention area
Crew:22
Operational areas:Baltic Sea; Mediterranean Sea

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