Container vessels at port in Fremantle

Fremantle Ports has awarded a contract to construct and supply two new pilot vessels, with the contract valued at $7.6 million.

Geraldton-based ship builder Dongara Marine has won the contract and delivery of the first pilot boat is scheduled for mid-2024. 

The pilot boats, designed by Southerly Designs of Port Denison, will be essential for the transportation of maritime pilots – highly-experienced mariners with extensive local knowledge who safely guide ships in and out of port. 

The acquisition of these new pilot boats will benefit port users by improving safety, security and adding capacity to assist in facilitating efficient ship movements.

Originally growing out of the fishing boat industry, Dongara Marine has a proven track record of building a wide range of vessels operating successfully in Western Australian waters and elsewhere. The company has been expanding its workforce to take on this and other contracts, with all its 59 staff, including five apprentices, expected to work on the pilot boat project.

Dongara Marine anticipates over 95 per cent of its contract expenditure will flow to WA-based suppliers, contractors, and staff. Of this, approximately two-thirds will be in regional WA.

The new vessels will be designed and built to the National Standard for Commercial Vessels and will be required to undergo a range of tests and sea trials prior to handover.

Port of Fremantle pilot boats provide services to ships arriving and departing both the Inner Harbour and Outer Harbour, with pilot runs of up to 14 nautical miles (26km) one-way.

Western Australian Minister for Transport, Planning and Ports, Rita Saffioti, said, “This is a significant and high-profile contract for Dongara Marine and the firm deserves congratulations for being awarded this work.

“Fremantle Ports choosing a local manufacturer for its new pilot boats reflects well on the high quality of Western Australian marine designers and manufacturers. Western Australia’s coastline is challenging, and the port therefore requires suitable craft for the job.

“This contract will support jobs locally in Geraldton and showcase their work every day at the Port of Fremantle in the years ahead.

“Without fast, efficient, reliable and safe pilot vessels, our ports can’t operate. These new assets will assist Fremantle Ports in providing the safest and most efficient service to ship owners, operators and the crew and pilots who board them every day and night of the year.”

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