Geraldton Port Authority has launched its state-of-the-art $2.3 million pilot boat which is a marvel of precision Australian construction and a cutting-edge design from France.
The hull is a carbon-fibre composite, the vessel self-rights if capsized, it can pierce waves at a staggering 32 knots or 60km/h and an infrared camera can pick up heat signatures at night in a ‘man overboard’ situation.
All this is designed to ensure severe weather doesn’t impact on delivery of port services, according to Geraldton Port Authority chief executive Peter Klein.
“Ship movements have increased significantly over the past few years with current trade pushing annual total ship movements towards 1000,” he said.
“The fast and reliable transfer of marine pilots is an expected feature of the marine services provided by Geraldton Port.
“The vital nature of this operation means that the port’s marine pilots must be able to deliver a safe service in all but the most extreme condition 365 days a year.”
The vessel was named Glengarry after Glengarry Station on the outskirts of Geraldton, the birthplace of the first woman elected to parliament, Edith Cowan.
In a small ceremony yesterday Geraldton Port harbormaster Martin North fittingly used Glengarry whiskey to bless the vessel before launching.
“I believe a boat has a spirit and this boat has a very strong spirit, so it needs a stronger spirit than champagne to launch her,” he quipped.
“This boat goes out when most people are going home.
“I’ve worked in 25 ports around Australia and this is the worst pilot boarding ground by far in terms of the weather.
“So we needed a boat that was very seaworthy, reliable and fast.”
Mr North said just having one boat available was quite a liability, so pilot vessel Jorgensen, which was used for the past 24 years, will be semi-retired and used as needed as a stand-by.
He said in a rescue situation Glengarry was unmatched on our coast.
“You’ve got incredible speed if a boat has capsized and you need to rescue someone, that’s not the boat’s first purpose, but it is the best search and rescue vessel on the coast and Jorgensen is as well – you’ve got to go down to Perth to find a better boat for that work,” he said.
“On the stern there’s a platform that folds out and lowers down to the water level because it’s very hard to pull someone out of the water especially if they’re unconscious or not able to help themselves.”
The owner of Hart Marine, which built the boat, Mal Hart, said construction took 10 months and the beak bow would ensure a comfortable ride