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Pilot Cutters

Pilot cutters are used to take pilots between the three pilot stations (at Gravesend, Harwich and Ramsgate) and ships entering or leaving the Port of London.

Three dedicated pilot cutters Patrol, Guide and our hybrid Leader are based at Gravesend. The six cutters used at Ramsgate are operated by a Estuary Services Limited, which is a subsidiary of the PLA.

PLA pilots based at Harwich use cutters operated by Harwich Haven Authority by arrangement.
Our first hybrid pilot cutter, Leader was built in 2018 by Goodchild Marine and delivered in spring 2019.

The plug-in diesel hybrid pilot boat's hull is be based on the established ‘ORC’ design, a unique ‘beak’ bow design, which gives it unmatched all weather capability and typically uses 40% less diesel per nautical mile than convention hulls. The batteries of the hybrid cutter are charged from existing shore power facilities while it’s alongside at the PLA’s Royal Terrace Pier in Gravesend.

The boat will run on batteries for approximately 40 nautical miles on one charge at speeds up to 15 knots. The diesel engines will boost top speed up to 19 knots and provide a backup to the electric propulsion for longer duty cycles.
Guide, which was purchased from Estuary Services Limited in July 2018, was built in 1991 Halmatic 48/50.

With an overall length of 14.83m and a draught of 1.4m, she is powered by twin Caterpillar 3406E engines (550bhp @ 2100rpm) and has a maximum speed of 22 knots.

Photo by Graham Tassell / PLA
Patrol, which was purchased from Estuary Services Limited in 1994, was built in 1982, by Halmatic, on a RNLI Arun-type hull and was given a major refit in 1998.

With an overall length of 16.4m and a draught of 2m, she is powered by twin Scania DSI 16 engines giving over 1100 bhp and a maximum speed of 20 knots.
Lambeth, Kew, Southwark and Barnes
These four purpose-built harbour patrol vessels are also used for pilot transfers in Gravesend Reach.

The launches were built by Alnmaritec, based in Alnwick, Northumberland, with a deep vee hull form, designed by Newcastle University.

The hull structure was designed by Amgram Limited.