A new £1million-plus state of the art, 'green' pilot boat will be operational in Falmouth in 2024 if all goes according to plan, as the harbour authority looks to the future.

Falmouth Harbour (FH) is inviting boat builders around the UK to tender for the construction of a clean, green, fuel-efficient pilot vessel to join a fleet operating 24/7, 365 days a year and completing more than 1,000 boardings and landings per year within the Falmouth Pilotage Area.

A team from the harbour authority has been carefully evaluating boat types and builders around the UK for the past 18 months. With the Celtic Sea Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) project gathering more momentum the authority needs modern economic pilot boats to maintain an efficient pilotage service for Cornwall’s largest and most strategic Channel port.

In a tender process which went live on Tuesday FH aims to appoint a builder in October, with a view to having the new, 16–18m dedicated coded pilot vessel operational in 2024.

Falmouth Harbour is looking to the UK’s network of builders to receive proposals that make full use of modern advances in fuel-saving technology, safety and crew welfare. The value of the project is expected to be between £1.1 to £1.4 million and will take up to three years to complete. When in commission the new vessel will be one of the UK’s greenest and most efficient vessels of its type.

“This long-awaited procurement represents a very exciting time for us as an organisation,” said FH CEO Miles Carden. “The new vessel will be a significant step forward in technology, fuel efficiency and sustainability and will modernise Falmouth Harbour’s Pilotage service, securing safe and efficient operations for the future benefit of the port and its many stakeholders.

“This is a considerable investment in the future of our harbour and potentially allows us to modernise our operations so we are absolutely fit for purpose and can realise future opportunities around technologies, such as Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW). This is a generational investment of over £1m in our future sustainable operations.”

Falmouth Harbour’s two current all-weather coded pilot boats are Arrow, a 16m Halmatic built modern pilot vessel built in 2006 and the LK Mitchel, a 17.0 m pilot vessel built in 1978. A two-boat operation, with the vessels operated in rotation, is essential to ensure complete coverage of the area and allow for vessel downtime and maintenance.

The Arrow is named after the sailing cutter Arrow, built at Trethowan’s boatyard near Flushing in 1863. An itemised bill of sale shows that she cost £810 6s 10d. She was built on a contract price of 55 tons at £8 per ton. Sails and blocks cost £99.

Managing owners of Arrow on a 64ths basis were H Tonkin, W Lowry, John Collins, and W Richards who owned 43/64ths. The remaining shareholders were Mrs Elizabeth Lowry and Philip Pope. The Lowry family provided Falmouth with 14 pilots in over 120 years continuous service.

The new pilot boat replaces the LK Mitchell which was built in 1978 and has been operating as a Falmouth pilot boat ever since.

LK Mitchell is named after Captain Laurence Kerr Mitchell who lost his life whilst boarding the car ferry Eagle in heavy weather in 1974.

“At 44 years old LK Mitchell is fast approaching a point where she is no longer economically viable to operate to the standards required of a 24/7 operation in Falmouth,” says Miles. “She has been a loyal servant to our port but the time to replace her has come. We will outline this vessel’s future in the coming months and we hope to redeploy her in a second, less demanding commercial life.”

Falmouth Harbour is the pilotage authority for the Falmouth Pilotage Area, which is ‘all waters inside an imaginary line drawn from Dodman Point to the Black Head’.

FPS provide pilotage services to A&P Falmouth and Cornwall Council, which runs the Ports of Truro and Penryn under an agency agreement. Falmouth Pilot Services have the remit to supply safe and efficient pilotage for this whole area on behalf of the many businesses and organisations that operate within it.

The Harbour Board will evaluate tenders received and appoint a vessel builder based on criteria that includes: suitability of the proposed vessel for operations specific to the Falmouth Harbour operating environments, capability to deliver vessel in service by the end of 2024, price and track record and experience of delivering pilot boats successfully into service in the UK.

Falmouth Harbour’s Invitation to Tender (ITT) is a document that contains full instructions on the tendering process and sets out the harbour’s requirements. Organisations interested in building the new vessel should send a simple confirmation of their intention to respond by August 2, 2022 with further detail on its website, at News - Falmouth Harbour, Cornwall.

All interested parties will need to sign a non-disclosure agreement before documentation is sent.

For information on the work of Falmouth Harbour, Falmouth Haven and Falmouth Pilot Services visit https://www.falmouthharbour.co.uk/