A Chesapeake-class MKII launch for the Virginia Pilot Boat Corporation is on order from Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, Duclos Corporation, Somerset, Mass., for a 2018 delivery.

The MKII, designed for a top speed of 32 knots and equipped with a Volvo Penta IPS 3 drive system, is a new generation of the 2003 Chesapeake design. Shipyard president Peter Duclos said the Volvo Penta system, with its propulsion pods and forward-facing propellers, provides for more comfort along with speed and fuel efficiency.

The 55’10”x17’2”x4’11” deep-V design by C. Raymond Hunt & Associates, will be all-aluminum, powered by twin Volvo Penta D13-700, EPA Tier 3-certified diesels, each producing 700 hp at 2,250 rpm. Each engine drives an  IPS propulsion pod, fitted with dual forward-facing, counter-rotating propellers and integrated exhaust system. Ship’s power will be provided by a 12kW Alaska Diesel generator.

Controls will be Volvo Penta’s integrated EPS electronic steering and control system. The EPS control system and its three-axis joystick will increase the boat’s overall maneuverability alongside ships and when docking, said Duclos. The financial incentive for pilots to optimize fuel economy, vessel handling and comfort also led to including the Humphree Interceptor automatic trim-optimization system on the MKII design.

“The combination of the Volvo Penta IPS system and the Humphree Interceptors gives the pilots faster acceleration and higher speeds and improved comfort, while burning 25% less fuel than similar Chesapeake Class launches,” said Duclos. The boat will also be equipped with Humphree’s Coordinated Turn Optimization System, which will be integrated with the pod drives. This MKII pilot boats can also accept a gyro-stabilization system to reduce vessel roll.

Key design changes to the new Chesapeake boats included positioning the wheelhouse aft of amidships to improve comfort and provide for a larger foredeck. With the pods close-coupled to the engines, the engine room is located well aft of the wheelhouse with easy access to machinery through a deck hatch. The wheelhouse is outfitted with five Llebroc reclining seats and will be cooled by two 16,000 BTU air-conditioning units. The forecastle, with a 12,000 BTU air-conditioning, can include a settee berth, an enclosed head and small galley.

Around the wheelhouse are heated side-decks and handrails, and boarding platforms on the roof and on the foredeck, to port and starboard. A secondary control station is located at the transom, along with a winch-operated, rotating davit over a recessed platform for pilot rescue operations.

Gladding-Hearn has built eight boats for the Virginia pilots, the last being  the Norfolk of the original Chesapeake class, delivered in 2012 and achieving top speed of 29 knots, powered by a pair of Caterpillar C-18s, each rated at 715 hp at 2,100 rpm.

After that, Gladding-Hearn and Hunt designers came up with the Fort Ripley, a 64’x21’x10’6″ emergency response and pilot boat for the Port of Charleston, powered by three 700-hp Volvo engines with IPS steerable pod drives that pull the boat at more than 28 knots.

The Fort Ripley was recognized as a WorkBoat Significant Boat of the Year in 2015. Gladding-Hearn scored that honor again in 2016 with Manatee, a boat for the Tampa Bay Pilots that achieves 27 knots while burning 28% less fuel than its standard propeller-and-shaft cousins, with propulsion from a pair of 510 hp Volvo Penta D11 engines spinning IPS650 drives.

At the 2016 International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans, Jens Bering, manager of product management and marine sales for Volvo Penta in Chesapeake, Va., explained how the IPS pod drive system gets pilots more speed and efficiency.

“This now allows pilots to get beyond the 30-knot barrier which has been increasingly difficult,” given constraints on pilot boat design and available horsepower, said Bering. “That equals more productivity…that four and a half knot difference (compared to conventional propulsion) over a day is 36 miles.”

Contributing 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 an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 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.