Although the Dutch are said to consider themselves the best boatbuilders in the world, Loodswezen, the Dutch pilotage organization based in Rotterdam, decided to build three new boats in Seattle.
So why go to a U.S. builder? For a variety of reasons, including available slots and favorable exchange rates, but there's also some synergy from Camarc Design , the Columbia River Bar Pilots and Kvichak Marine Industries that played into the decision to build in the U.S.
It all began with the Columbia River Bar Pilots, who were looking to buy a new boat in the late 1990s. They travelled to The Netherlands to confer with the Dutch pilots, who introduced them to pilot boats designed by Alistair Cameron at Camarc Design in the U.K. The Bar Pilots liked the design and hired Kvichak in Seattle to build one called the Chinook . A decade later, the Bar Pilots ordered a second boat from Kvichak, the Columbia.
Around the same time as the Columbia delivery, the Dutch pilots were conducting their own search for a new series of pilot boats. They decided to check out the newest Camarc design on the Columbia River and talk with Kvichak about possibly building for them.
"So the Dutch pilots called and said they're interested in coming over and talking to us about building some boats for them," said Keith Whittemore, Kvichak's president. "We said, 'you're welcome to come, no problem, but we know we aren't going to build any boats for you. But, hey, come on over. We want to learn from you guys, too. You've been operating Camarc fast pilot boats for 15-18 years now, and there's no way this won't be good for us, good for the Columbia River Bar Pilots, good for the Dutch pilots, and, frankly, good for our future customers.'
"So they came over, met us, and got on the Columbia," Whittemore continued. "And they were absolutely blown away by the boat. They said, 'OK, we'd like a bid for three,' and we told them no. We said, 'we're not going to bid your boat because we know we're not going to build it.' They said, 'yeah, you are.' And two weeks later, they actually sent their fleet manager and general manager over here and went down to look at the Columbia. Then they met with us and said we want you to build our boats."
So, finally convinced that the interest was genuine, Kvichak prepared a bid and was invited to Holland to negotiate.
"We spent a week there, and then they came back for some more negotiations, which was followed by even more," said Whittemore. "They don't say the Dutch are hardheaded and tough for nothing, because they are. And in the end we signed the contract.
"We asked them why they came here, and they said because they could get better delivery, better quality and a better price than anywhere in Europe. We shook hands and signed the deal."
Now Kvichak is about to deliver the Aquila, the first of three 75' × 22' Camarc-designed pilot boats for Loodswezen, aka the Dutch Pilotage. The Draco and the Orion will be delivered in two-month intervals following the Aquila.
The hull design is nearly identical to the two boats Kvichak built for the Columbia pilots, but the house is distinct, the engines are Cats instead of MTU s, and the boats incorporate an emissions control system that effectively puts the emissions profile into the Tier 4 range.
Like ports all over the world, the Port of Rotterdam is increasingly concerned with its environmental footprint, so the pilots agreed that any new boats would have the lowest levels of exhaust emissions possible.
As it happens, at the time the Dutch were looking around for new boats, Kvichak and Nichols Brothers Boat Builders were building a series of passenger ferries for San Francisco that were required to meet emissions controls beyond anything that had been done before.
And like the San Francisco buyers, the Dutch already had worked with emissions control experts and knew what was possible.
For the Dutch, the experts were at Hug Engineering in Switzerland. Hug has experience with emissions control for trains and trucks, but very little with boats. But Hug told the Dutch pilots what they could do, and it was those numbers that the Dutch wrote into the contract.
"Now Kvichak is not in the business of taking what a Swiss company says, which is then written in a contract with a Dutch company that says we're going to give you your boats back if this doesn't happen," said Whittemore. "So we agreed that if all parties shared the risk we would buy one engine and emissions control package and put it in a test cell down at NC Machinery [the local Cat dealer] and see if it works. If it didn't, Hug would take the system back. But it worked great."
The system consists of an SCR (selective catalytic reduction) and a DPF (diesel particulate filter), all from Hug Engineering and branded "nauticlean."
Chris Downs, a sales rep at NC Machinery, said the engine and emissions control system were set up exactly as it would be on the boat. "Kvichak was pretty particular, even to the point of pulling water from [a source in the test cell] that had to simulate the height of the sea chest in the vessel," he said.
The SCR and DPF are housed in large, insulated modules just aft of the engines. "The SCR has what I call an oven, for lack of a better description," said Downs. "It's an enclosure where you maintain high heat. That's where the silicon bricks are housed. It's right in the area where you inject the urea and where the catalytic reaction takes place." This reaction reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) to nitrogen gas and water.
Downstream of the SCR is the DPF, the diesel particulate filter that collects unburned soot. With the addition of another catalyst, the filter takes the carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and particulate soot and converts them into carbon dioxide and water. Normal exhaust temperatures while running are high enough to achieve an almost complete burn of these soot particles, but during long periods of idling, a separate afterburner has been installed to periodically increase exhaust temperatures.
After that, the exhaust line takes a few more bends and then there's a water injection ring for seawater that is diffused into the exhaust stream to cool it down before being discharged out through the transom.
With all this equipment in the exhaust line, engine back pressure is increased, but not enough to affect the engine output, according to Downs. "There's no loss of horsepower," he said, noting that excessive back pressure would reduce power and increase fuel consumption. "But I can tell you that as tested, the Dutch pilot vessels meet Caterpillar's requirement for level back pressure."
The new boats also meet Loodswezen's speed requirement of 28 knots, which is about a knot and a half less than the Columbia River pilot boats. "These boats are a little slower because the Cats have a little less horsepower, and we're carrying around more weight with the emissions system," said Whittemore. "But they have the same Hamilton 651 waterjets and the same Hamilton Mecs controls. The house and the emission systems are the biggest differences."
Unlike the Columbia pilot boats, the Dutch boats don't have any accommodations in the house because they are used to transport pilots between the beach and large station ships outside the harbor. They also shuttle pilots between the station ships and the ships being piloted.
The deckhouse, which has seating for three operators and 12 pilots, is low and sleek with lots of tinted glass on both sides. The house is also set on resilient mounts to reduce vibration.
Throughout construction, representatives from Loodswezen were at Kvichak's shop overseeing the project.
"The Dutch pilots have a whole department that is responsible only for buying boats, and they are damn good at it," said Whittemore. "Their attention to detail is extraordinary. Their focus on the little parts and pieces is nothing short of really impressive. It's been an honor to work with these guys, and we've learned a ton from them."