Belfast Harbour Invests £2m In New Pilot Boats

Local supplier, Red Bay Boats, won contract through European Tender Process.

Belfast Harbour has taken delivery of a second Pilot Boat, completing a two vessel contract with Cushendall-based Redbay Boats.

The latest arrival, the ‘Ben Madigan’ joins the ‘Captain Michael Evans’, which was named in honour of the company’s Deputy Harbour Master who was killed in the Cork air disaster.

The Harbour said the vessels, a £2 million investment, are already proving to be a major asset, playing a vital role in servicing the significantly larger cargo and cruise vessels which regularly call at the Port.

Trevor Anderson, Belfast Harbour’s Operations Director, said:

“With 23 million tonnes passing through the Port annually and a record cruise season this year, it’s great to be able to launch a second, best-in-class pilot boat into service.

“This additional boat has again been developed to meet the Harbour’s specific 24/7 needs and we’re delighted to have been able to source the vessel from a local supplier.”

The Stormforce 1650 is designed to operate safely as an all-weather boat in sea conditions.  With improved handling and enhanced comfort, the boat allows pilots to board vessels in conditions beyond what would have been traditionally possible – helping keep the port open all year round.

Design on the development of the new vessel began five years ago when Redbay Boats built a prototype to test the technology.

Gary Fyfe, Operations Manager of RedBay Boats, said:

“After initial testing, the design of this new series of vessels was completed in partnership between Redbay Boats and Belfast Harbour. 

“At 16.5 metres the ‘Ben Madigan’ is the second of a two-boat order to be delivered to Belfast Harbour.  It is the largest and most complex vessel that we currently build.

“The design offers several bespoke features including a high impact fender system, a more fuel efficient hull design and dual work and pilot boat licenses, all of which are a first for this type of boat in the UK.”

For the Co. Antrim boat builder, which is celebrating its 40th year in business this year, the delivery represents a significant milestone in the company’s history.

Employing 22 staff and building 40 boats a year, Redbay Boats recently invested £500,000 in a new factory to facilitate the growth of its product range.