Thailand Torqeedo ferries, electric drug sub, e-boat awards…

Welcome to ELECTRONS #2 – Arcs & Sparks from Here and There – with an update on the launch of Thailand Torqeedo powered ferries, a cocaine smuggling autonomous ‘narcosub’, an autonomous cargo ship, awards for the Maid of the Mist, a nomination for a Dutch e-boat company and a new Danish electric ferry.

Torqeedo Thailand ferries now in operation

The Bangkok ferries that we wrote about back in August went into service on November 27 and are extremely popular. The commissioning ceremony was overseen  by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang and included a traditional blessing and sacrifice to Mae Ya Nang, an ancient Thai deity and Guardian Goddess of boats and.

Thailand Torqeedo powered ferry in Bangkok khlongBangkok’s canals, locally known as ‘khlongs’ (written คลอง in Thai), are one of the main transportation routes in the bustling city of 8.28 million, and the substitution of electric ferries for diesel ones has been widely supported by all levels of government as a way to reduce the city’s choking air pollution. Bangkok was recently named the world’s most congested city by navigation company TomTom.

The 30-passenger electric river boats are operated by BMA’s Enterprise Krungthep Thanakom Company and are a bit like subways in other cities – the passengers quickly hop off and hop on at stations along the five kilometre (3 mi) route. They run from 6am to 7pm and there will be no charge for six months. Tickets will then be 10 Thai bat – about 33¢ US / 0,27 €.

The 47.5-ft fibreglass vessels were repowered by MariArt Shipyard, replacing 205hp diesel engines with twin Torqeedo Cruise 10 kW electric outboards, twelve Power 24-3500 lithium batteries and four fast chargers.

Dr Michael Rummel, Torqeedo’s managing director, said “Adding electric ferries accomplishes the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority’s goals in two ways: moving passengers from roads to the waterways reduces congestion and, since the boats are 100% emission-free, they don’t contribute to harmful local air pollution.


Electric narcosub captured, can carry 6 tons of cocaine

electric drug sub When there is a type of propulsion available for a submarine that is virtually silent, has no emissions, operates very smoothly with almost no detectable vibrations and can be programmed to go hundreds of miles underwater with no humans aboard, it was only a matter of time before all these constructive benefits and features would come to the attention of some of the planet’s most nefarious people.

Popular Mechanics carries this story:

“The Colombian military, working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, discovered a new type of so-called “narcosub” that runs on battery power and is designed to completely submerge for short periods of time. On November 5, the authorities found the boat, designed to carry approximately 6 metric tons of cocaine ($120 million), in a makeshift boatyard on the Colombian coast.

The boat, according to U.S. Naval Institute News, features a fully enclosed, cylindrical hull, a hex-shaped viewing port with windows for navigating, and four dive planes designed to allow it to submerge underwater. The Colombian Navy posted a photos of the vessel to Twitter:

There was room in the boat for an estimated 10 tons of batteries, giving it enough power to remain submerged for up to 12 hours while running at three knots. Analyst H.I. Sutton believes the boat was designed to be towed by another boat. Once near its destination, the narcosub would be cut loose and proceed under its own power. After the $1.5 million boat unloaded the drugs, it would be scuttled.”


Delivery of world’s 1st zero-emission autonomous container ship

The commissioning of the electric autonomous barge Yara Birkeland was first announced in October of 2017 and there have been a lot of design changes and building challenges since that time.

The latest challenge was the one we are all familiar with, COVID-19, which forced a pause in final development in May. The ship had already been launched into the water in Romania in February and was expected, in those pre-pandemic times, to be deployed shortly thereafter.

Yara Birkeland autonomous ferry sailing in open water

Now the long-awaited zero-emission container vessel has been delivered to owner Yara International in Norway, the world’s leading fertilizer company. Climate change  is obviously of huge concern for companies involved in growing food, and the Birkeland is part of the company’s effort to ‘develop a more sustainable food value chain’ and achieve its ambition of being the ‘Crop Nutrition Company for the Future’.

Yara teamed up with technology company Kongsberg to design a zero emission way to transport fertilizer 31 Nm (KILOMS) along inland waterways from Yara’s factory in Porsgrunn to the deep-sea ports of Larvik and Brevik. When in action, she will replace 40,000 truck journeys a year and reduce CO2 emissions by 700 metric tons.

The Birkeland will now undergo testing for  container loading and stability and get some real life experience of how its autonomous operation will function. The ship is now fully outfitted with the battery, control and navigation systems, but the tricky part is communicating with the autonomous logistics on land.

Yara boss Svein Tore Holsether told Norwegian engineering magazine Teknisk Ukeblad that the company “underestimated the complexity”. Yara Birkeland is 80 meters long, 15 meters wide, and  can accommodate 120 standard 20-foot containers (TEU). If all goes well she will start replacing those truck journeys in late 2021. 


Maid of the Mist earns ‘Boat of the Year’ award

electric Maid of the Mist at foot of Niagara FallsWe’ve been following the Maid of the Mist electric ferry story since the plan to purchase the fossil-fuel-free boats was announced just over a year ago. At that time, the goal was to have them in service for the summer tourist season of 2020, but again COVID exerted its impact on both the construction and the number of tourists. The two new 600 passenger ferries were launched in October and got great reception.

Now American Ship Review has named the new all-electric, emission-free Maid of the Mist vessels as “Boat of the Year.” The Professional Mariner magazine cover story (Niagara Falls tour operator leads industry toward all-electric future) wrote: “The iconic Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist tour company made history of its own last fall when it took delivery of the first zero-emission passenger vessels built in the United States.”

ABB Marine & Ports supplied the integrated power and propulsion solution for the newbuild vessels, including lithium-ion battery packs and an onshore charging system. “The captains are finding that instead of the horsepower coming from fuel, going to a diesel engine, and ramping up through the gearbox, which causes delay, they’re getting an almost instantaneous transfer of power.” said John Sicinski, Head of Engineering and Project Management for ABB. “After they get used to it, they don’t see going back to the old way of doing things.”

“To be the first to accomplish something like this in the United States is quite rewarding and to be recognized by the marine industry is very gratifying,” said Maid of the Mist President Christopher M. Glynn. “When we started this project, we knew we were doing something very special.”

The 2021 Maid of the Mist season will begin next spring, once the ice pack from Lake Erie clears Niagara Falls and the Lower Niagara Gorge is open.


Electric boat motor company nominated for Green Award

Jurjen, Hylke, Josien and Sarah Poorting of Natural Yachts

An electric boat company from Heeg, Netherlands, has been nominated in the Netherlands CO2 Neutral Foundation Awards to find ”The most sustainable company in the Netherlands”. Electric Ship Facilities is a family owned enterprise that has more than 10 years of experience in electrical and hybrid drive systems and offers electric motors, batteries and range extenders for electric boating.

Electric Ship Facilities is participating in the Green Shipping initiative run by Dutch tech company Association FME in a program that is working to prepare the way for Methanol as an energy carrier in the maritime environment.

An offshoot of Electric Ship Facilities is the Natural Yachts brokerage started recently to focus on electric boats and was an award winner itself a few months ago. At the 2020 HISWA In-Water event, Natural Yachts was awarded the Boat of the Year Start-up for “a Dutch water sports company, not older than 5 years, that is demonstrably successful with a new formula or in new target groups with innovative products.”

HISWA is the umbrella organization for all companies in the Netherlands’ watersport industry. In non-pandemic years they hosts two shows annually, the autumn show in Leyland and the larger spring show in Amsterdam in the spring. As of this writing (Dec. 8, 2020), the HISWA Amsterdam show is tentatively scheduled for March 10 – 14, 2021.


Another Denmark electric ferry next year

In more electric ferry news, Denmark’s largest ferry company Molslinjen is set to launch the country’s first fully commercial electric ferry in September next year.

Electric ferry being built in shipyardThe new ferry will use motors from Danfoss Editron and an energy storage system by Corvus. It will travel through the Wadden Sea between the mainland town of Esbjerg and Fanø in the southern part of the North Sea. One of the main reasons for commissioning the ship is that the Wadden is a UNESCO World Heritage waters of the Wadden Sea – so a ship with zero emission, little noise and vibrations  brings significant benefit.

“This will be our first and most certainly not the last ferry powered by electricity,’ said Ole Berg-Hansen, project lead from Molslinjen, on building the new ferry. ‘We are operating the route on a contract with the municipality of Fanø and they were asking for a greener solution. Now we will be expanding the capacity for the route and at the same time take the first step to make our ferry service green.”

Read about e-ferry Ellen of Denmark, the world’s largest electric ferry

Two Danfoss Editron 375kW / 500HP electric motors will power the ship, one in the front and one in the aft end. The ferry can carry 396 passengers and 35 cars on 12 minute leg of its route trip and will be charged automatically during the eight minute off-loading and loading of passengers in the docks at Esbjerg.

“Electrification is the future, and the requests we get for new ferries and boats are electric.’ said David Birkwald Thorstensen, Project Manager on the ferry at Hvide Sande Shipyard. “We have built hybrid ferries, but a fully electric is a new type of project and very interesting because it will give us a solid foundation as to what are the best solutions.”

Exciting things are happening every day in electric boats and boating.
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