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Tug Technology & Business

Tug Technology & Business

Building tugs for greener ports

Wed 11 Jul 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

Building tugs for greener ports

Battery manufacturers will be the big winners from IMO requirements to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and tugs are where the investment has been initially focused

There is growing pressure on ports and shipping to slash emissions. In reaction to this, IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted an initial strategy to reduce GHG emissions from shipping by at least 50% by 2050.

This is consistent with the Paris Agreement, which was adopted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015. MEPC meets again in October to implement this strategy.

While it will be tough to get the whole shipping industry following the same script, there are easy gains to be found.

As the maritime industry looks to cut its carbon footprint, one change that would be visible to the general public would be to minimise emissions from tugs and other port vessels, such as pilot boats and mooring boats.

Making these changes would involve either converting tug fleets to liquefied natural gas (LNG) or removing hydrocarbon-based fuels altogether.

LNG is a cleaner-burning fuel than gas oil or heavy fuel oil, but it is still carbon-based and is expensive to install due to the need for tanks and associated pipework.

And that is not the only added cost with LNG. Naval architects with whom I am in contact have told me LNG fuel costs on tugs can run up to US$3M extra, as compared with using oil-based fuel.

Given these financial barriers to entry for LNG on small vessels, owners of tugs and port vessels should look to hybrid battery propulsion as a solution, using batteries powerful enough to cover most tug operations.

Early adopters of this technology are already propelling the tug industry into a carbon-free world, having ordered hybrid-propulsion systems for new tugs.

Kotug Smit Towage currently operates a large fleet of hybrid tugs, including five operating in northern European ports.

Grand Port Maritime de Guyane, Port of Lulea, Rimorchiatori Riuniti, Baydelta Maritime and Petrocity are the hybrid tug pioneers with newbuidings on order, as we highlighted in Q2 2018, Tug Technology & Business. These tugs are scheduled to be delivered in 2019 and 2020.

Naval architects have developed hybrid tug designs to cater for an expected growth in interest, with Wärtsilä and OSD taking the lead in these designs.

And Robert Allan has developed designs for electric-powered pilot vessels and fireboats to go along with its hybrid tugboat designs.

I heard last week that Damen Shipyard has also developed a hybrid version of its reversed stern drive (RSD) tugboat that combines elements of tractor tugs and azimuth stern drive units. This RSD is built and available to any owner requiring a hybrid tug for harbour tugs at short notice.

This shows that designers and tugboat builders are enabling towage companies and port authorities to invest in hybrid technology. There are no excuses anymore, tugboat owners have the rationale for investing in hybrid. They have readily-available designs and builders with experience in constructing these green port workhorses.

They have the incentives and future requirements, so it makes sense to order hybrid tugs, or even purchase those built on a speculative basis by shipyards. We will create a greener port future by using battery-powered tugs.

If you have an opinion on this subject, or want to comment on my opinion, please feel free to contact me on:

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