Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc.
The family-owned company’s offering, comprising of high-end commercial and government-authority craft for the police, pilot services, port authorities and border security, sets standards in maritime reliability and efficiency.
The ORC Pilot Boat, with its design rooted in the expertise of Pantocarene, a naval architecture firm based in Arzon, France, garners global recognition for its unmatched functionality and design. Described as the civilian equivalent of a pocket battleship, the ORC Pilot Boat evolved to suit the needs of Europe’s armed forces, police, search and rescue services and other bodies needing small vessels that operated largely regardless of weather conditions.
Didier Marchand of Pantocarene, draws a parallel between vessels designated as ORC, standing for Offshore Rescue Craft, and the ORCA whale. Both signify attributes of speed and aggression, characteristic of certain marine mammals. ORC vessels are constructed to Pantocarene’s detailed specifications and drawings, ensuring the desired weight, location of the centre of gravity, performance and stability. The range comprises of five models, with hull lengths spanning from 12.5 to 18 metres.
The beak bow design, also known as a polyhedral bow or rostrum, is optimized for high-speed vessels. The principle behind it is that when a ship encounters a wave, the beak bow induces negative lift, which prevents the vessel from being propelled upwards off the wave and subsequently descending harshly – or slamming. The main objective is to reduce vertical acceleration, allowing the vessel to move through the wave rather than over it.
Such a design approach aims to counteract the unfavourable sea-keeping attributes often experienced by conventional planing hulls, especially in head seas. Beyond its performance in head seas, the beak hull design also leads to a noticeable reduction in fuel consumption and offers improved course-keeping in following seas. With this design, boats can maintain higher speeds in rougher conditions, specifically in seas ranging from 4 to 5 metres. Overall, these durable vessels are designed to withstand rapidly changing hydrodynamic loads and efficiently navigate challenging sea conditions shunning the extreme physical phenomena of slamming.
The vessel’s self-righting design is also a paramount feature, ensuring operational functionality even during a rollover in steep, short and turbulent seas. The principle is rooted in the relationship between the centre of mass, the centre of buoyancy and force derived from its strategic underwater hull shape; the vessel will naturally return to its upright position when capsized. This design not only enhances safety standards for pilots and crew but also aligns with the requirements of the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019, effective from July 2020. Key elements facilitating this self-righting ability include dampers on all ventilation ducts, rollover-designed engine mounts, safety belts, inversion-ready fuel tanks and components and a capstan to secure the anchor chain, minimizing damage in turbulent conditions.
In pilot boats, the wheelhouse design prioritizes comfort and functionality to reduce operator fatigue. The interior showcases resiliently mounted ergonomic seats, complete with integrated suspension. These seats come with a heating option, ideal for colder periods. To counter warmer climates, the wheelhouse integrates advanced custom air-conditioning systems.
Efforts to maintain noise levels below 72 db include an insulated superstructure designed for noise dampening, crucial for long operations and ensuring clear communication among crew members. Attention to functionality also includes low-glare finishes on the dash and other surfaces to aid night navigation.
The wheelhouse windows are constructed to be 10 millimetres thick, while the windscreen is 12 millimetres thick, ensuring durability and clarity. Additionally, to prevent reverberation from the hulls, the engineered suspension system is designed with a focus on damping vibrations, incorporating a 2-millimetre thick rubber layer.
The OCEAN 3 fender system, seamlessly integrated around the gunwale, contours the boat’s shape, absorbing impacts and offering continuous protection to ensure that no shocks are transmitted to the hull. Comprising a core of polyethylene (PE) foam, the fender effectively absorbs energy with minimal reaction force, serving as a shock absorber during berthing. The system’s polyurethane (PU) coating, reinforced with multiple textile layers, not only ensures tear and abrasion resistance but also enhances energy dissipation efficiency and extends the fender’s lifespan. Precisely tailored based on energy calculations and user requirements, this fender system is optimal for workboats, enabling them to efficiently nudge ships and barges. The gunwale fenders, designed to grip rather than deflect, assist in navigation.
The vessel is powered by twin 500kw engines, allowing it to reach speeds of 26 knots. Its fuel efficiency derives from a carefully crafted hull shape and driveline configuration.
Utilizing advanced construction techniques, Hart Marine was an early adopter of resin infusion. According to Ben Switzer, Production Manager of Hart Marine, this technique meticulously controls resin-fibre ratios, resulting in hulls that are dense in fibre and optimally calibrated in weight. As a testament to their durability, these hulls are projected to sustain intense maritime conditions for at least 30 years. Additionally, they offer a more subdued noise signature compared to alternative marine construction materials. To enhance structural integrity further, carbon fibre reinforcements are integrated into the construction.
Ben highlighted the adaptability of the ORC Pilot Boat, specifically tailored for the UAE’s ports. To meet the regional demands, the boat was fortified with sand filters against desert particulates. Engines were enhanced with advanced cooling capabilities, air conditioning systems featured built-in redundancies, and engine room ventilation was reinforced with supplementary coalescing filters. Expanding fuel capacity was also essential to ensure reduced operational downtime.
Similarly, for regions with colder climates, pilot boats were adjusted accordingly. Some Victorian vessels, for example, were outfitted for specialized tasks. The after deck was designed for diving, towing, and recovery operations. With openings on the sides and transom, the door space surpasses the bulwark’s span. Moreover, the deck’s effective space is augmented by the protective platform situated above the water jet nozzles. For recovery efforts or hoisting equipment such as police jet skis, a 500kg crane stands poised at the aft.
Hart Marine places significant emphasis on training and skill development. At the time of writing the company had 10 apprentices undertaking the Marine craft qualification focusing on both theoretical knowledge and practical expertise through flexible distance learning. Ben Switzer remarked, “Honing their skills for the next generation is not just about ensuring continuity; it’s about cementing the future of the marine industry and meeting the industry’s rigorous standards.”
Hart Marine’s comprehensive offering includes its manufacturing hub in Mornington which is complimented by its marine services facility in Yaringa Boat Harbour in Western Port, furnished with multiple travel lifts, designed to accommodate vessels weighing up to 75 tonnes. This infrastructure underscores its stature as a pivotal national industrial asset.