Raising—and Crossing—the Bar

(Left) 67-foot Camarc Design all-aluminum vessel is bound for San Francisco. (Right) Seattle-based boatbuilder Snow & Co. is working on what’s believed to be the first EPA Tier IV pilot boat in the U.S. Photos: Norris Comer.

Snow & Company’s new 67-foot Camarc Design Pilot Boat is Bound for San Francisco

Seattle-based boatbuilder Snow & Company is working on what’s believed to be the first EPA Tier IV pilot boat in the U.S., a 67-foot Camarc Design all-aluminum vessel bound for San Francisco working life. The boat, under construction at the Snow & Company yard, was expected to be delivered by late April. The pilot boat is the latest in a string of such builds for the company.

The firm started its first pilot boat two years ago, company founder and owner Brett Snow said. That first pilot boat was delivered in January of last year, with the second pilot boat expected in the spring. The company has another four on order.

“They are fascinating boats,” Snow remarked. “They are high-speed commercial craft. Previously we built high-speed boats, but they were much smaller and with a lot less expectations. These boats are fairly complicated mechanically. The hulls themselves are very specific.”

“Pilot boats are really doing controlled collisions, bumping into ships all day long for pilot transfers,” Vice President Tim Kolb said, adding that projects between 35 feet and 85 feet are a sweet spot for the facility and crew.

The First American-Built EPA Tier IV Pilot Boat

“We believe it (the 67-foot pilot boat) is the first EPA Tier IV pilot boat built in the U.S.,” Kolb said.

Engines currently over 600 kW (about 803 horsepower) require an after-treatment system to meet for Tier IV standards.

The 67-foot pilot boat has twin MAN D2862 LE 438 (1,200 horsepower at 2,100 RPM) diesel engines with MAN’s selective catalytic reduction (SCR) aftertreatment systems. These systems reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate emissions pollution. SCR aftertreatment systems for marine use are not new, but over the last decade the technology has greatly improved. 

“They started out where they were very big, so they didn’t necessarily fit very well in some of these smaller high-speed vessels,” Kolb explained. “They’ve gotten increasingly smaller over the years.”

Snow & Company opted for the MAN engines with MAN’s SCR setup because it was the best option on the market in their view. “It (the MAN engines and SCR systems) has got four different configurations that you can align it to, so it’s configurable. It seems to be the most workable solution right now for again, high speed small vessels … for this application it was the right system.”

A factor for this project is regulation unique to California, where the 67-foot pilot boat is bound. The California Air Resources Board has a set of rules that are considered more stringent than the EPA. However, the air board regulations did not greatly affect this project, Kolb said. On both state and federal levels, the trend is toward higher environmental standards with regards to working boat.

“I say we’re following the curve very tightly,” Kolb said about the environmental regulation landscape. “Everyone has to comply with these regulations, it just so happens that our vessels, high-speed vessels, take more horsepower. Oftentimes we find ourselves designing and building boats that are over that 800 horsepower threshold.”

Design: Safety and Comfort

The 67-foot pilot boat is designed for two crew shuttling up to 12 pilots with an estimated speed of around 30 knots. To Snow, crew comfort and safety go hand-in-hand.

“I’ve always had a strong belief that a comfortable boat is a much safer boat,” Snow said. “When you’re comfortable, you’re not on edge and as tense and it’s much easier to perform your job when that’s the case … a properly rested crew member is going to be more effective at their job and it’s going to be much safer than a crew member who is not properly rested and who is irritated or uncomfortable.”

One innovation is a floating house design. The superstructure is not physically welded to the hull and is instead completely isolated. A benefit to this is noise reduction and greatly decreased vibration for crew and operations comfort. The estimated sound during operation is anticipated to be around 60 decibels.

The stern of the boat also features a large hydraulic rescue basket. The aluminum framework with netting can be used to recover a person during a man overboard scenario.

“Basically, they can scoop a person up out of the water,” Snow said.

Another safety system is a Hadrian Marine Safety Rail System that runs completely around the boat. Operators will clip into it to be tethered to the vessel while retaining the ability to navigate the deck during operations.

“Fendering systems for pilot boats are extremely important,” Kolb remarked. “I think most pilots when they’re getting ready to build a new boat always take the fender system into consideration.”

He explained how some pilots prefer to stick to their target vessels during crew transfers and others prefer to slide along the hull. Either way, managing the controlled collision requires a beefy fender system. The 67-footer features traditional tire fenders on the exterior of a foam core system molded to the shape of the hull. The foam fendering system was manufactured in Europe to the exact specs of the hull and shipped over for installation.

The hull is referred to as a Camarc-design refined hull by Kolb.

“Essentially we have more waterline length on the vessel hull, hence you’ll see the look is a little more plumb stem-ish than a traditional hull,” Kolb said, adding that the design should yield efficiency and performance benefits.

An element to the 67-foot pilot boat that’s unquantifiable is the aesthetics.

“As the owner of the company with my name on the side of it, it’s important that not only is the boat safe and ergonomic for the guys working on it, but also that the boat is aesthetically pleasing,” Snow said.

“While these boats may not have the same type of beauty as a classic sailing vessel, they’re beautiful boats … if you see the boat from the dockside, you’ll see beautiful lines, a beautiful paint job and lots of beautiful details,” he remarked. “You go down inside the boat and I think you’re going to see a lot of beauty and structural detailing as well.”

“When we sign a boat, when we sell it and when we deliver it, we have an idea that we’re going to build something that’s stout and beautiful,” said Snow.

What’s Next

The team spent three or four weeks in the spring going through every single system, finishing some of the electronics and electrical systems and preparing the boat for delivery.

Snow & Company is currently seeking to hire more skilled tradespeople to handle their growing workload.

“We have some phenomenal boat builders here and are always looking for more,” Kolb said.  



DESIGNER: Camarc Design, UK 

BUILDER: Snow & Company Inc.

LENGTH: 67.3 feet

BEAM, OVERALL: 20.3 feet

DRAFT: 3.6 feet


FUEL: 1,300 gallons

FRESHWATER: 50 gallons

ENGINES: EPA Tier4 Man D2862 LE 438, 1,200 hp at 2,100 RPM MAN SCR and Dosing Units

PROPULSION: Hamilton Jet HTX 52 waterjets 


SPEED: ~30 knots