Sailing harness system gaining traction on pilot boats

When the Sabine Pilots of Texas go out to meet ships on their boat Port Arthur, they have an extra level of safety, bearing a name more often associated with high-performance sailing.

Harken Industrial’s Tight Radius System 31 (TR31) is a continuous tracked harness system that allows pilots and crew to freely move 360 degrees around the 53’x17’ Chesapeake-class pilot boat, delivered in 2015 by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding.

“More and more people are asking for harness systems on pilot boats,” Gladding-Hearn president Peter Duclos explains in a video describing the TR31. With his background in sailing, Duclos was familiar with Pewaukee, Wis.-based Harken and its products, including their harness systems for sailors.

Detail of the Harken TR31 as demonstrated at the 2016 International WorkBoat Show. Kirk Moore photo.

Detail of the Harken TR31 as demonstrated at the 2016 International WorkBoat Show. Kirk Moore photo.

The TR31 rail-and-trolley system is capable of tight turns through a 200-mm radius, so a pilot can stay tethered and still move anywhere on the vessel. At the 2016 International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans, Harken’s Matt Luedtke and Sean Cogan demonstrated a tabletop model of the system.

“We saw a need for this system to keep guys tethered outside the boat,” Luedtke said. The design for the Sabine Pilots, based in Groves, Texas, is to keep pilots secure when they walk to and from the port and starboard boarding platforms. But it can be applicable for any workboat situation when crew need to move securely on exposed decks.

“We chose the pilot boats because of the bends and curves” to show the reliability of the system, Cogan said. “The rigging is not nearly as complicated as what you see on sailboats.”

The system is hands-free, so crew can trail the harness behind as they move and have both hands free to work with, without having to unhook and re-hook. If a crew member should lose footing, strain on the trolley cam will lock it in place. The trolley can be locked manually to keep it in place too.

“We take all that background in sailing and apply it for commercial use,” Luedtke said. It is a growing product line for Harken, which has also been a selling safety gear and rescue kit into the European offshore wind energy industry.

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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