Estuary Warden a VT Halmatic Nelson 48/50 pilot boat has recently been delivered back to Estuary Services Ltd following a thorough mid-life refit at VT Halmatic’s Portchester Shipyard. The Pilot Cutter first entered service in 1992 and has been in continuous service ever since in the busy approaches to the Thames Estuary and Medway Ports. The craft was weighed and inclined pre-contract to ensure that design changes would not increase the VCG or change the LCG as Estuary Services Ltd were pleased with the sea keeping and handling of the craft. Weighing and inclining post re-fit confirmed that both all up weight and VCG had been reduced and sea trials confirmed the craft had retained its good sea keeping and handling characteristics. The comprehensive refit focused on the major systems and structure. The original diesel engines were replaced with new Caterpillar 3406E marine diesels (rated at 550 bhp @ 2100 rpm) coupled to overhauled ZF BW155A gearboxes to provide a service speed of 22 knots. New silicon element Vulastik couplings were fitted between the engines and gearboxes. Teignbridge supplied new 5 blade propellers that have been designed to provide good acceleration and smooth running characteristics. Twin single lever electric cruise command engine and gearbox controls have been fitted to give precise handling and ‘soft’ gear engagement to prolong the life of the gearboxes. The electronic engine management system provides full multi-function digital displayed information at the helm console which can be interrogated with a laptop computer. In addition the vessel is fitted with a real time data logger which is interfaced with the GPS. VT Halmatic and Estuary Services Ltd worked closely together to develop significant modifications which are intended to reduce in-service operational costs and improve the reliability and maintainability of the craft. Major items include: · The installation of the NIBS elastomer fender system on the forward boarding shoulders and the aft quarters. · The replacement of the outdated Halon fire smothering system with an MCA approved Pyrogen system. · Installation of VT Halmatic developed fuel traps to enable the vessel to operate safely at lower fuel levels. Combined with a 17% saving due to more efficient engines this significantly reduces the number of times the craft has to refuel. · New heating and de-misting systems with improved fresh air ventilation. · New man-over-board recovery platform. · A custom developed exhaust system supplied by Halyard that has proved very effective in reducing sound levels and achieving low engine back pressure levels. · Increased engine room ventilation with new aft deck ventilators and Elta 12” brushless fans.