New Zealand orders World’s 1st electric tugboat

The growth of electric marine propulsion continues day by day with the latest example being the world’s first full-size electric tugboat ordered for use in the port of Auckland, New Zealand. (A smaller all-electric is being built in Turkey).

The Ports of Auckland set the goal of being a zero emissions harbour by 2040 and it searched for 3 years to find a builder for this historic and symbolic e-tugboat mission.

The port’s operations manager Allan D’Souza told Radio New Zealand that when they started looking for a battery-powered tug in 2016, no-one was making them, and shipyards told them they were dreaming.

Eventually Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands decided to take on development of a full-size, 70-tonne bollard pull all-electric tug for delivery in 2021. The e-tug has the same pulling power as the port’s strongest diesel tug, which was also built by Damen. (Damen is also building electric ferries for Canada’s St. Lawrence River.)

Electric tug has same pulling power as largest diesel

“It was important to us that a new electric tug should be able to carry out normal port operations, just like our existing diesel tugs” said Port’s chief executive Tony Gibson. “This is just what we need. Our new e-tug will be able to do three to four shipping moves on a full charge, or around three to four hours’ work. A fast charge will take about two hours.”

The 25m / 81ft tug has a battery pack with 2,800 kWh capacity and will be charged using a simple four cable system that connects the boat to an onshore  1.5MW charger. About 80 percent of New Zealand’s electricity is generated through hydro and geothermal facilities.

Another workboat World’s 1st

an electric pilot boat being tested on a river in England

Auckland joins the Port of London in advancing alternatives to diesel and fossil fuels for workboats. The UK city recently launched the world’s 1st hybrid pilot boat for guiding ships along the Thames, and France just introduced the world’s first hydrogen powered river push boat, (a push boat pushes barges along canals instead of pulling, or tugging them).

While the initial cost of the Auckland tug is double that of a diesel unit, it costs significantly less to operate and maintain. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said “The life of the tug is around 25 years. By going electric now, we save 25 years of diesel pollution and a net reduction in costs of around NZD 2.5 million because it is so much cheaper to operate.”

Photos: e-tug:Ports of Auckland • London Pilot Boat: Goodchild Marine Services/PA Wire

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