PICTURE OF THE WEEK ‘Solas’ to Light the way as Port of Cork Company Unveils New Pilot Boat

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Rhys Daly from Enniskean pictured at the official launch of the Port of Cork Company’s (PoCC) newest pilot boat, ‘Solas’. Pic: Diane Cusack

The Port of Cork Company is proud to announce the official arrival and unveiling of its new state-of-the-art pilot boat, ‘SOLAS’. The new vessel, a symbol of the port’s commitment to safety, innovation, and sustainability, was introduced in a special ceremony attended by Port of Cork staff and their families in the Quays Restaurant, Cobh on Sunday, 26th of May 2024.

Built by Safehaven Marine, ‘SOLAS’ is a cutting-edge ‘Interceptor 48’ model, measuring 15 meters in length and capable of accommodating seven pilots and crew members. The vessel boasts a top speed of 25 knots and is equipped with state-of-the-art navigation equipment and numerous advanced safety features, including automatically closing air vents, thick windows, and watertight cockpit doors. Additionally, the vessel operates on HVO Biofuel, a sustainable fuel option that significantly reduces carbon emissions, reflecting the Port of Cork’s dedication to environmental stewardship.

The name ‘SOLAS’, meaning ‘light’ in Irish, was chosen through an innovative competition among the children of the Port of Cork staff. The competition encouraged the young participants to submit names that captured the essence of the pilot boat’s role in guiding ships safely through Cork Harbour. The winning name was submitted by 9-year-old Rhys Daly, son of Port of Cork team member Bryan Daly. Rhys’ imaginative and fitting choice was celebrated at the unveiling ceremony, where he was invited to cut the ribbon and officially name the boat. In recognition of his contribution, Rhys was also presented with a special trophy.

During the ceremony, Donal Crowley, Acting CEO of the Port of Cork Company, expressed his gratitude to the project team whose hard work and expertise brought this initiative to fruition. Special thanks were given to Mark Moran (Launch Crew), Padraig Condon and Kevin O’Callaghan (Pilots), and the late Michael Connolly and Peter O’Galligan of Ballycotton Marine, whose insights were instrumental in shaping the design and safety features of ‘SOLAS’.

The unveiling of ‘SOLAS’ continues a long tradition of pilot boats serving the Port of Cork, a history that spans over a thousand years. From the Viking age to the present day, Cork Harbour has been a vital hub of maritime activity. The new pilot boat represents the latest chapter in this storied history, combining advanced technology with the dedication and skill of the port’s pilots.

Speaking at the launch, Conor Mowlds, Chief Commercial Officer of the Port of Cork Company, said “‘Solas’ stands as a testament to our commitment to innovation, safety, and sustainability. It marks a significant leap forward in our ability to navigate the challenges of modern maritime operations while preserving the rich heritage of the Port of Cork. We are delighted to partner with Safehaven Marine once again and would like to thank them for their incredible work. Thank you to all those who submitted fantastic suggestions for the name of our newest pilot boat and congratulations to Rhys Daly on his choice of name which has beautifully captured the spirit of what our new pilot boat represents.”

Pilot boats have been carrying out their vital role in Cork Harbour since the 1820s and have seen many eras of maritime and local history which is reflected in the style and names of previous pilot boats. The ‘Luth na Mara’, launched in 1925 was equipped with tall masts and sails to help it navigate the seas, which was much more typical of the time while the pilot boat ‘Sonia’, launched in 1996, was a more familiar looking, fuel-run, bright-orange boat naturally named after Cobh’s own Olympian.

Commenting on this at today’s launch, Nicholas Bourke, Deputy Harbour Master at the Port of Cork Company, said “Today’s launch continues our proud tradition of naming and launching pilot boats. ‘Solas’ stands as a beacon of light, guiding us into a future where safety, innovation, and sustainability are paramount. As we celebrate this new addition to our fleet, we honor the legacy of all those who have come before us—the pilots, the engineers, the navigators—who have made Cork Harbour what it is today.

Following a traditional blessing from local clergy Fr Tom McDermott and Reverend Elise Hanley, Rhys Daly proudly cut the ribbon to officially launch ‘Solas’ and mark another milestone in the history books of Port of Cork.