Canaveral Pilots Explore Battery-Powered Pilot Boat Design

Current Canaveral Pilots Association boat (Canaveral Pilots)

Published Feb 7, 2020 10:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Canaveral Pilots Association has partnered with naval architecture firms Glosten and Ray Hunt Design on a "pilot" project for the design, construction, and operation of an electrically-powered pilot boat. The boat will feature a battery-electric propulsion system with an emergency "get home" diesel engine. Once tested and put into service, it will serve as one of the two primary boats for pilotage operations at Port Canaveral, Florida - making it the first vessel of its kind in the United States.

During the feasibility-level engineering phase, the team found that a conventional pilot boat hull form outfitted with a battery propulsion system will achieve the speed and operating range required for the normal pilotage operations at the port. “We are happy with how this is taking shape,” said Morgan Fanberg, president of Glosten. “Ray Hunt brings a wealth of knowledge on planing hulls and pilot vessels, specifically. Combining that with our own experience in electric propulsion systems, we hope to provide an excellent working solution for Canaveral Pilots.” 

The specific design details are still confidential, but the minimum performance criteria included a cruising speed of 18 knots and a battery-only operating range of 24 nautical miles.

“The technology isn’t necessarily new. The challenge is managing total weight in relation to the hull form and the required operating profile,” says Winn Willard, President of Ray Hunt. “Because we are seeing a growing interest in such vessels, it made sense to partner with Glosten to work through those technical challenges.”

With feasibility-level engineering now complete, the next step for the team is the development of a draft program for the pilot project to be used for federal or state grant funding solicitations. Currently, there are no pilot boats operating in the U.S. with hybrid or fully electric propulsion systems.

“We are excited to forge ahead with Glosten and Ray Hunt on this project,” said Brendan McMillin, Co-chairman of Canaveral Pilots. “This presents an opportunity not only to reduce some of our maintenance and operating costs, but to demonstrate that electric propulsion can be adopted by marine pilot associations on a broader scale.”