Boat builder Metal Shark has delivered a 55'x17' welded aluminum pilot boat to the Pascagoula Bar Pilots Association in Mississippi.
The second Metal Shark pilot boat to join the Pascagoula pilots fleet, the distinctive new Singing River Island represents the latest evolution in the Louisiana-based builder’s growing Defiant-class pilot boat lineup. Designed by Metal Shark’s in-house engineering team and built at the company’s Franklin, La., shipyard, the new 55 Defiant Pilot combines a proven hull form with a modern, crew-friendly arrangement designed to deliver class-leading comfort, safety, efficiency, and performance, the shipbuilder said.
Metal Shark equipped the Singing River Island with twin 803-hp Caterpillar C18 engines turning Michigan Wheel 34" diameter Nibral four-blade propellers through Twin Disc MGX5146A 1.961 gears. This combination delivers a cruise speed in the 25-knot range and a top speed approaching 30 knots. An 800-gal. fuel capacity allows for a cruise speed range of approximately 280 nautical miles.
“Metal Shark has succeeded in combining quality and comfort,” Pascagoula Bar Pilots Association Capt. Walter Gautier said in a statement announcing the delivery. “This vessel is proving daily to be a safe and pilot-friendly platform for transfers at sea.”
Metal Shark’s military-proven Defiant-class monohull pilothouse vessels are popular across a wide range of markets, with hundreds of parent-class vessels in service worldwide, the shipbuilder said.
For its pilot boat clients, Metal Shark pairs the Defiant hull form with a bespoke arrangement designed specifically for pilotage. Flat, non-skid decks run from bow to stern and allow pilots to move quickly and safely around the vessel, rugged pilot-specific fendering systems absorb impacts, and stern corners and bow feature a gentle radius to allow easy underway separation from ships following pilot transfer. Safety rails and grab handles are carefully placed, and pilot boarding platforms are configured to suit the requirements of each operator.
For Pascagoula, a foredeck transfer zone features integrated port, starboard, and forward stairways leading to two deployable platforms, allowing pilots to quickly and safely board ships from either side of the vessel.
The 55 Defiant Pilot features a pilothouse designed to deliver best-in-class visibility. The use of Metal Shark’s signature “pillarless glass” with reverse-raked windshield significantly reduces blind spots compared to the industry’s legacy pilot boat designs, which generally feature smaller, framed windows. A two-tiered side window arrangement, with a second row of windows below the belt line, provides downward-angle visibility from the helm during alongside maneuvers or man-overboard retrieval. A panoramic skylight array provides an unobstructed upwards view while operating alongside ships during pilot transfer.
As built for the Pascagoula pilots, the 55 Defiant’s climate-controlled cabin is equipped with four Dometic HVAC units and offers seating for seven, accommodating a single operator forward plus six pilot passengers. For comfort and convenience, each swivel seating position is equipped with a footrest, adjustable armrests, white/red LED lighting, a drink holder, and two 12-volt USB outlets.
A full electronics suite includes Furuno TZtouch2 multifunction black box system with integrated GPS, radar, depth sounder, and a FLIR M-series 364C premium thermal imaging system for nighttime operations. Five closed-circuit cameras allow the vessel’s operator to monitor the engine room and aft deck from multiple angles at a glance while still maintaining watch. All of these features are displayed on three 19" Nauticomp GB Elite Series multi-touch displays.
Belowdecks accommodations include an enclosed head compartment with fresh water sink, bunks, and individual storage lockers for crew members’ personal items. Acoustic insulation and flooring are employed throughout the vessel to reduce noise and vibration.
The new vessel is the latest result of Metal Shark’s ongoing expansion into the pilot boat market, following two 45-foot Defiant pilot boats delivered to Belle Chasse Marine Transportation in late 2019, and 45-foot and 64-foot Defiant pilot boats delivered in 2018.
“Through an unwavering commitment to product improvement and a significant investment in engineering, we continue to expand and evolve our portfolio,” said Metal Shark CEO Chris Allard. “In the past two years we have delivered entirely new 32', 38', 40', 50', 55', and 70' Defiant models, each utilizing an extensively proven hull form and optimized for its specific mission. By working closely with our customers and continually monitoring market trends, we strive to be predictive instead of reactive, designing and building increasingly modern, capable, and crew-friendly vessels and delivering them sooner.”
“I’d like to thank the Pascagoula Bar Pilots Association for allowing us to build their second Metal Shark pilot boat,” said Metal Shark’s vice president of commercial sales, Carl Wegener. “We recognize that our clients have choices, and it is a real validation of our ongoing efforts in the pilot boat sector to earn a repeat customer; one we hope to keep in the Metal Shark family for years to come. We invite all pilot groups to learn about the many advantages of a next-generation Metal Shark pilot boat.”