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New patrol boats for Thames

EcocatA radical new design of patrol boats has been ordered by the Port of London Authority (PLA) for use on the Thames between Putney and Teddington. The new craft will enable the PLA to deliver further improvements in its work to maintain high safety standards in the upper part of the tidal Thames. PLA launches patrol the river daily and assist with river functions, rowing and sailing regattas, etc., as well as providing navigational control and support to emergencies.

The PLA has now signed a contract with Ecocats Limited to build two new patrol launches. The novel design of the Ecocat hull will allow patrolling and, when necessary, high speed response to be made with a substantial reduction in wash wave height and energy, compared to existing patrol launches. This helps the PLA to serve river users better in the upper tidal Thames and also conserves the environment of the river. The PLA commissioned a special research project on vessel wash by Southampton University prior to placing the order.

The new craft will enable closer communication with rowers, canoeists and others in small craft. The Ecocats design helps achieve this with an island wheelhouse/open deck layout; bulwark doors on both sides; and a stern access platform. This layout will also help the management of regatta safety and a variety of other river duties. The new vessels will also assist the PLA in its work following the navigational risk assessment in the upper tidal Thames, undertaken by the Salvage Association.

The launches are being built at Ecocats’ boatyard in Torpoint, Cornwall, a recognised centre of excellence for multihull design and construction.  The new mould for the 9.5m hull is a development of the existing Ecocat 28 ft catamaran, which has proven successful as the umpire’s launch for the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race and other duties. The craft attracted interest at the 2005 Seawork exhibition in Southampton. The Ecocat design was chosen in a competitive tender exercise as it provides the best platform for PLA duty, at an affordable initial and through-life cost. The craft are due to enter service on the Thames in September 2006.

The design of the boats will allow for all essential equipment and services required for extended patrols. Propulsion and electrical generation will be provided by two 36HP Yanmar Diesel outboard motors, mounted within acoustic hoods to ensure the low noise levels.

All aspects of the new launch design have taken conservation of the environment into consideration. Quite apart from their low wash characteristic, the new boats will use less than one third of the fuel of the existing launches. Wherever possible, the components and materials used in construction are being obtained to ensure sustainable sourcing and recyclability.

Ecocats managing director, Henry Mayhew said: "We are delighted that the PLA’s focus on environmental issues led to our selection as their boatbuilding partner in this exciting new project for the Thames. Our concept is about designing out the environmental negatives of wash, emissions, and noise, while increasing high-speed response capability by 40% over the existing patrol boats. Vessel performance has been achieved through the selection of a catamaran hull form, dynamic modelling techniques and the availability of lightweight materials".

Commenting, Richard Everitt, PLA chief executive said:

”We are seeing a major increase in recreational use of the Thames which we welcome. These new patrol boats have been specially designed to take account of the needs of leisure craft, in addition to other users including commercial and passenger vessels and houseboats. The new design will help our continuing steps to work closely with the rowing, sailing and motorboating community to promote safe and responsible recreational use of the Thames.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Port of London Authority is responsible for safety on 150km (95 miles) of the tidal Thames from the sea to Teddington.
  2. For more information on this release contact
    Martin Garside, Port of London Authority, 7 Harp Lane, EC3R 6LB (Tel: 020 7743 7915; Fax: 020 7743 7998).
  3. For more detailed information on the Ecocat design, contact Henry Mayhew at Ecocats Limited. Tel: 01752 829117. Email: henry.mayhew@ecocats.com
  4. An artists impression of the new design of patrol boat is available on request from Martin Garside, PLA. Tel: 020 7743 7915.