Sunday, May 26, 2024


We take a closer look at three pilot boats – operating in China, Norway, and the USA – all powered by Volvo Penta Inboard Performance System (IPS). How does one system perform in drastically different environments?

Ever since our ancestors began sailing large ships across the Seven Seas, pilot boats have ensured they were safely guided in and out of harbor. Volvo Penta’s Inboard Performance System (IPS) has recently been providing the local experts operating with a wide array of life- and task-enhancing advantages.

Fangcheng Port, Guangxi, China
In southwest China, the crew of two 20m-class all-aluminum pilot boats operating out of Fangcheng Port in Guangxi province appreciate the improved safety provided by the Volvo Penta IPS900 – a complete, integrated Volvo Penta system from the joystick to the DuoProp forward-facing counter-rotating propeller arrangements. All of its power is concentrated on propulsion, delivering optimum forward and reverse maneuverability via its individually steerable hydrodynamic drive pods, and even enabling the boat to run with just one engine. Turbulence is greatly reduced and thrust massively increased, producing major gains in terms of stability and wave resistance. 

Fangcheng Port

Liang Yuanxin, a local pilot of 15 years, says this is particularly beneficial when operating in heavy storms: “The Volvo Penta IPS900 provides excellent balance and stability. When my boat is alongside a huge ship, it can withstand larger swells. This undoubtedly greatly improves the safety of the pilot during boarding and disembarking, and provides real peace of mind for personal safety.”

Tromsø, Norway

Skipper Knut Charles Olsen

The safety benefits have not gone unnoticed by Knut Charles Olsen, a pilot boat skipper for Buksér og Berging AS (BB). Based in Tromsø, Norway, he works deep inside the Arctic Circle, so it’s no surprise that, for him, the most important qualities of his Volvo Penta IPS-equipped Kewatec Pilot 1820 are “its incredible maneuverability and reliability.” 

But the two Volvo Penta D13 engines powering his boat provide a further huge advantage – for the company’s finances as well as the stunning local wildlife and pristine environment. Fuel consumption has been reduced to around 30 percent, leading to tremendous savings for a boat that covers 42,000 nautical miles per year. Part of this improvement is due to the enhanced maneuverability, which helps to improve acceleration, while noise and pollutant emissions are also lower than those from traditional inboard propulsion boats the company previously operated. 

Ida Rist-Christensen, Commercial Manager Pilot Transportation, confirms: “We have reduced our fuel consumption considerably – and there are fewer components, which means fewer maintenance issues and increased reliability.” 

Virginia, Maryland and Louisiana, USA
Meanwhile, on the USA’s Atlantic Seaboard, maintenance access and comfort enhancements enabled by Volvo Penta IPS are a key factor for customers. Seaway Pilots, Inc, the Virginia Pilots Association, the Maryland Pilots Association, and the Associated Federal Pilots of Louisiana have all recently ordered new Volvo Penta-powered vessels from Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding.

With Volvo Penta IPS, the props and drives are close coupled to the engines, providing a compact structure that allows the deckhouse to be located further aft on the flush deck, thereby improving comfort and creating a larger foredeck and more enclosed space. This configuration also permits easier access to the machinery space via deck hatches located aft of the wheelhouse.

Virginia Pilot Association

The process of finding the right propulsion system for the application was a lengthy one. It took years of research and trials. 

“We had to be thorough due to the demands of our operation,” says Jay Saunders, harbor pilot with the Virginia Pilot Association. “We typically perform between 6,000 and 7,000 pilot boardings every year. There’s little to no leeway for downtime. We had to be sure that we had a system that was safe, reliable, easily serviceable and had high performance. We got all that and more from Volvo Penta’s IPS. Within one year of taking delivery of our first Volvo Penta IPS boat we had another one on order, that says it all really. This system is our top option for our next build.”

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