VESSEL REVIEW | Serac – Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park takes delivery of catamaran workhorse

VESSEL REVIEW | Serac – Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park takes delivery of catamaran workhorse

Photo: Brix Marine/Maddie Hunt Photography

A new semi-displacement catamaran pilot and escort boat was recently handed over to the US National Park Service (NPS) for use in the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in southeastern Alaska. Named Serac, the vessel was built to a design developed by Canadian naval architects Jutson Marine to be capable of performing not only pilot transfers to and from the cruise ships that sail through the park’s waters, but crew and cargo transfer duties as well.

The all-aluminium vessel has a displacement of 17.96 tons (16.3 tonnes) at full load, an LOA of 45.9 feet (14 metres), a beam of 15.41 feet (4.7 metres), a depth of 6.88 feet (2.1 metres), and a remarkably low draught of only 3.14 feet (0.96 metres).

“This is our second time to use a semi-displacement hull form for a pilot boat and it represents a growing trend away from the traditional monohull designs used for pilotage,” Jutson Marine told Baird Maritime. “The hull is an outgrowth of our moulded hull form developed in Australia in the 1990s and is optimised for efficient construction in alloy.”

Photo: Maddie Hunt Photography

Jutson added that the NPS required a vessel that was designed for park waters where restrictions exist for both speed and wake and transit distances are relatively short at only around 15 to 20 nautical miles at the most. Because of these limitations, it became evident early on that a standard modern pilot boat design capable of a high operating speed was not an ideal solution for the waters of Glacier Bay.

“Also, unlike a pure pilot boat, this vessel needed to move additional passengers and supplies to and from ships so there was also the requirement to meet passenger vessel standards, i.e. USCG Subchapter T.”

Further, the NPS wanted a vessel that can guarantee improved operating efficiency even with the many environmental constraints in Glacier Bay. The service’s existing pilot boats were built with planing hulls, forcing their crews to operate them at or below hump speed in the park. This then led to high wake and significant fuel burn, which are issues that the NPS hoped to address through the introduction of a replacement vessel.

To come up with a suitable pilot boat for the NPS, Jutson coordinated directly with the pilots who would operate the vessel, a move that the company has claimed to be “the best part of the [design] process.” With pilot feedback and through the use of 3D modeling, custom features were made possible, such as a pilothouse designed with upper, lower, and look-up windows to provide the operator with optimal viewing in nearly every direction.

Photo: Maddie Hunt Photography

In the pilothouse, the helm station has Bentley Mariner shock-mitigating seats for two operators while a bench seat/berth combo is available for use by the captain and other crew. The main cabin has interior heating, bench seating for up to 12 pilots, a mess area that can be converted into a double berth, and a head with hot water.

“Every pilot boat offers unique challenges depending on the operation,” Jutson explained, “and so we know that we will be asked to work outside the box. Being ready to listen and engage with the pilots in unique scenarios is a primary requirement.”

This practice proved effective in the case of Serac, leading to the design being officially selected by the NPS upon the conclusion of a competitive tender process.

Photo: Maddie Hunt Photography

To power Serac, Jutson opted for two John Deere 4045FM85 M3 200hp (149kW) main engines. These drive a pair of tunnel-housed nibral propellers via ZF 85A gearboxes to give the vessel a maximum speed of 19 knots and a cruising speed of 14 knots, both of which have been deemed ideal speed settings for Glacier Bay. For more precise manoeuvring, such as in approaching ships for transfers, a bow thruster provided by Side-Power is also used.

Even with Serac‘s low draught, Jutson selected tunnel housing for the propellers as an added layer of protection in light of the vessel’s expected heavy duty operations.

“The tunnel also is designed to keep the vessel at neutral trim through the speed range so no additional trim control is required.”

Photo: Maddie Hunt Photography

For the exteriors, Jutson custom-designed a walk-through transom that leads to twin swim platforms, a large bow deck with 10 recessed cargo tie-downs, a welded aluminium tow post, and an anchor winch. Exterior lighting includes LED floodlights and courtesy lights under the gunwales. Handrails are placed all throughout and there is also a removable davit with a tackle-equipped man overboard rescue system supplied by West Marine.

Much of the boat’s electronics are included in a comprehensive package provided by Furuno. These include radar, AIS, autopilot, loudhailers, GPS, VHF radios, and multi-function displays.

Serac also comes with a heavy-duty trailer for added ease and flexibility in deploying the vessel throughout Glacier Bay.

Photo: Maddie Hunt Photography

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Type of vessel:Pilot boat
Classification:USCG Subchapter T
Port of registry:Glacier Bay, Alaska, USA
Owner:US National Park Service
Operator:Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, USA
Designer:Jutson Marine Design, Canada
Builder:Brix Marine, USA
Hull construction material:Aluminium
Superstructure construction material:Aluminium
Deck construction material:Aluminium
Plate cutting:CNC
Length overall:45.9 feet (14 metres)
Length waterline:45.73 feet (13.94 metres)
Length bp:45.73 feet (13.94 metres)
Beam:15.41 feet (4.7 metres)
Draught:3.14 feet (0.96 metres)
Depth:6.88 feet (2.1 metres)
Displacement:17.96 tons (16.3 tonnes)
Main engines:2 x John Deere 4045FM85 M3, each 200 hp (149 kW)
Gearboxes:2 x ZF 85A
Propulsion:2 x nibral propellers
Side thruster:Sleipner Motor/Side-Power
Steering system:SeaStar Optimus
Maximum speed:19 knots
Cruising speed:14 knots
Range:380 nautical miles
Hydraulic equipment:Hydraulic sense pump-off PTO
Radar:Furuno DRS4D-NXT
Depth sounder:Airmar Transducer
Radios:Icom RC M600; Furuno FM4800 VHF
Autopilot:SeaStar; Furuno NavPilot 711C
GPS:Furuno GP330B
AIS:Furuno FA170
Other electronics:Furuno loudhailers; Furuno multi-function displays
Winches:Kinematics reel winch
Other deck equipment:Tow post
Fendering:D rubber, 2 courses
Paints/coatings:Zolatone interior paint; clear coat exterior
Windows:Aluminium frame bolt-in windows in pilothouse
Seating:2 x Bentley Mariner shock-mitigating operators’ seats; bench seats
Interior lighting:LED
External lighting/searchlights:Rigid Industries LED floodlights
Safety equipment:West Marine man overboard recovery system; life rings
Type of fuel:Diesel
Freshwater capacity:55 gallons (208 litres)
Sewage/blackwater capacity:55 gallons (208 litres)

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