New SW Alaska Pilot Boat is built to tackle the state’s challenging waterways

Wall Street Business News

HOMER, Alaska, Feb. 13, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Southwest Alaska Pilots Association (SWAPA), the state licensed pilots entrusted with the critical job of safely and efficiently piloting ships and their valuable cargo on the ports and waterways of South Central Alaska, took possession of their newest pilot boat, “Emerald Island”. 

The “Emerald Island” was built by Somerset, Mass-based Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding and arrived by ship in Victoria, BC on December 22 where it underwent final sea trials before making the voyage to Valdez, AK. She measures 75 feet in length by 21 feet in width, is powered by twin 1,400 HP water jets, and can make 29 knots delivering pilots to and from their timely ship assignments off the shores of Alaska.

“She will provide our pilots with the stable and secure platform required for them to handle the dynamic and unpredictable weather conditions that we may encounter performing our work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week each year” said Capt. Ron Ward II, SWAPA pilot.

The all-aluminum boat features Gladding-Hearn’s Ray Hunt-designed deep-V hull. It is powered by twin Cummins QSK38-M1, EPA Tier 3 diesel engines each capable of reaching 1,800 RPMs. The wheelhouse features direct glaze-heated windows, heated hand rails and heated decks that will enhance the pilot’s ability to board and disembark safely in Alaska’s extreme and often frigid conditions. 

It has shock-absorbing seats so that the pilots and crew can securely travel in the challenging sea conditions that characterize their busy waterway. SWAPA pilots may spend many hours on their waterway during their work assignments. 

To accommodate the pilots and crew, the vessel’s forecastle includes two staterooms, a head and shower, dressing area and hanging lockers. The inside insulation holds interior sound levels at full engine power to under 74 decibels.

“Everything about this new boat speaks to the demands of our work environment as Alaska pilots,” Ward said. “The “Emerald Island” will be stationed in Valdez, AK and will primarily be providing a year round service to tankers carrying crude oil from the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS) terminal. Our customers expect their ships to transit without delays and we are grateful for their collaboration which was essential to ensure this vessel project was a success. This ‘all weather’ pilot boat will allow us to safely satisfy the demands of our customers and help us to endeavor to keep Alaska’s economy strong.”

About SWAPA:
Southwest Alaska Pilots Association (SWAPA) has been providing pilotage service to vessels on the ports and waterways of South Central Alaska since 1975. Currently 18 pilots work closely with federal, state, industry and environmental organizations to fulfill their mandate to the citizens of Alaska to assure the safe navigation of vessels and the protection of life, property and the marine environment on the waters of Icy Bay, Prince William Sound, Resurrection Bay, Kenai Fjords, Cook Inlet, and the Kodiak Island Archipelago.

The SWAPA offices and pilot dispatch center is located in Homer, Alaska. Please navigate this website for further information:

For more information:
Henry de La Garza, The Pilots PIO
(713) 622-8818

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

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