Recently, in Somerset, Mass., Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding launched a new pilot boat, this one for the Tampa Bay Pilots who serve the ports of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Manatee, Fla. Yawn...right? Gladding-Hearn has produced more pilot boats than any other shipyard, but this boat is a bit different and may be the beginning of a trend in high performance workboats.

A Gladding-Hearn-Chesapeake-class pilot boat. Photo courtesy Capt. Ben Schill via Gladding-Hearn.The new Chesapeake Mk2-class pilot boat is very close in design to the successful Chesapeake class that Gladding-Hearn developed for the Association of Maryland Pilots. It is 53'7"x18'3"x4'6" with a deep-vee hull designed by C. Raymond Hunt Associates. But the Tampa pilot boat utilizes a pod drive system, specifically: two Volvo Penta IPS (Inboard Performance System) 650, with 510 hp, D-11 engines and two IPS pod drives.

The Volvo Penta system is a self-contained drive and steering system operated by an Electronic Vessel Control (EVC) computer unit that receives signals from a three-axis maneuvering joystick at two stations.

Peter Duclos, president of Gladding-Hearn, said that the switch to the IPS system is expected increase to fuel efficiency somewhere between 20-25% while running at 26 knots.

"This is compared to the Maryland pilot boats which are very close in displacement and level of fit out," Duclos said.

After the first sea trial, Duclos was pleased.

"First trial went well…initial fuel consumption is a 25 percent improvement, as predicted. We’ve been trying to come up with name for this new class of boat, and have decided to make it as the ‘Chesapeake Mk2’ class. It’s well and truly an evolution of the original Chesapeake class, which is now 12 years old, but it contains our latest ideas for improvements.”

It will be also interesting to see how the launch operators find the increased maneuverability the steering system offers to the sort of "controlled collisions" they must execute for pilot boarding.

More on the Volvo Penta system:

A collection of stories from guest authors.