A marine pilot boat is a vessel that’s specifically used to ferry helmsmen or marine pilots from harbours to ships that need piloting, or vice versa. The concept of boats for pilots is quite old, predating to the heydays of the Greco-Roman empires.
Pilot Boats – A brief history
The more formal utilisation of a pilot vessel, with the titular demarcation, is comparatively more recent than the Greco-Roman era and dates to the mid-15th century in Great Britain. According to reputed history sources, the Bristol marine corporate officially engaged the professional services of a local mariner (George J. Ray) to ferry a vessel pilot to his ship, anchored in the neighbouring high sea in the late 1490s.
By the turn of the early 1600s, a special contract was awarded to one of the local maritime enterprises to maintain a series of such boats for pilots to ferry them to and from their vessels. There however has been a systematic evolution in the utilisation of such pilot vessels and over the years, the reach of the pilot boats has also undergone immensely significant changes.
Alongside the reach and outspread of the marine pilot boat, there were also significant changes in its constructional aspects. While in the initial days of the concept origination, the pilot vessel was a bulky specimen, over the years its features and specifications were lightened considerably.
- Cutter and sailing vessels featured prominently as some of the piloting vessels of the past
- Contemporarily, a pilot boat measures around 1,000 tonnes with a length ranging up to 75 feet and speeds touching up to 32 knots
- The hull of the pilot vessel is broadly highlighted with their purpose of utilisation with several night-time apropos indicators
The most important feature of pilot vessels however is their ability to withstand the most inclement of weather conditions while being engaged in a piloting operation. This factor when combined with their light-build accounts for the basic premise in their structural paradigm.
A pilot boat fulfils a major maritime niche. In the presently existing maritime domain, a governmental maritime agency and ports retain the right to engage in providing such pilot vessel services. Alternatively, a governmental agency can also outsource these services to private companies so as to fulfil the pilot vessel requirement.
Today, even pilot vessels have been subjected to the same level of technological and engineering developments as any other ship catering to the widespread marine sector. Specialised engineering corporations have taken up the simple concept of boats for pilots and turning them into engineering marvels in their own right, highlighting the demand fuelling supply of these unique vessel models.
References: atlanticpilotage, nicommaritime, thefreedictionary