The new hybrid vessel, due for delivery in spring 2019, will replace 1982 built pilot cutter 'Patrol' which is powered by twin Scania diesel engines. The ORC hull design typically uses 40% less diesel per nautical mile than a conventional hull such as Patrol and fuel consumption is further reduced as the ORC is less than half the weight of Patrol. PLA chief executive, Robin Mortimer, said:

We are in the environmental vanguard in the UK ports sector – following the first green tariff and first air quality strategy with the first hybrid pilot cutter order. Introducing the hybrid boat is going to result in a major improvement in the environmental performance of our operations.

According to Mr. Mortimer, the hybrid cutter will use less than 10% of the fuel used by the current pilot vessel, with CO2 emissions similarly reduced. As such, from using 86,000 litres of fuel for pilot cutter operations a year, PLA could go to around 7,000 litres.

The batteries of the hybrid cutter will be charged from existing shore power facilities while it’s alongside at the PLA’s Royal Terrace Pier in Gravesend. The boat will run on batteries for approximately 40 nautical miles on one charge at speeds up to 15 knots. The diesel engines will boost top speed up to 19 knots and provide a backup to the electric propulsion for longer duty cycles. The diesel engine will also charge the batteries while providing propulsion.

London is the UK’s second biggest port, handling around 50 million tonnes of cargo annually; PLA pilots undertake more than 10,000 pilotage acts a year. The new pilot cutter will be used by the PLA for the transfer of pilots to and from vessels in Gravesend Reach.