Combining sheer power with elegant design, tugboats are the workhorses of the maritime industry. They are also leaders in the transition to a greener world.
(Article published in November/December 2022 edition)
They cut back on their imposing figure while remaining true to their purpose of providing a dynamic force for the marine industry. It has been replaced by a sleek, modern design. These are not your grandfather’s tugs.
However, like all types of vessels and any sector in the maritime world, they are subject to changing industry trends and are subject to the same regulatory changes and market fluctuations as the specific segment in which they work. The objectives of the various missions have not changed, but the means of propulsion have not. And by working with industry innovators, tugboats continue to collect tolls safely and effectively in a greener, more efficient manner.
Few vessels are as universally universal as the tugboat. Whether it’s manning huge ships in busy ports, towing offshore structures for the energy industry, or pushing an inordinate number of barges around hairpin bends in rivers, tugboats do virtually everything. is the flagship of the maritime division of
By default, they fall squarely at the forefront of progress in each sector they serve.
Tugs have a power-to-weight ratio well over ten times that of much larger ships and are built to transmit raw power. However, 90% of the time, especially in port applications, a tug’s staggeringly large power capacity required for guiding and mooring large vessels is not needed. As a result, in conventional diesel-powered ships, the power comes at the expense of efficiency and high emissions.
According to Ferhat Acuner, general manager of Istanbul-based Naval Technologies Inc. (NAVTEK), studies show that 40-60% of port and harbor emissions are due to tugboat operations. increase. With growing concerns about carbon emissions, fuel efficiency and other environmental issues, tugboats champion new forms of power and design while maintaining the required bollard pull.
We partner with ship designers and technology leaders to collaborate on industry advancements in areas that appear indirectly related to tugboats but directly impact their ability to effectively carry out their missions.
take the lead
NAVTEK and its partners believe that the marine industry is evolving to keep pace with the world’s growing interest in reducing emissions. Governments and international organizations are now enacting stringent environmental regulations, turning to initiatives such as renewable energy sources, inevitably leading to an evolution in ship design. Proactive companies recognize their role in this new future and see it as seizing the opportunities offered by the immediate and long-term challenges of implementing environmental improvements.
As the market’s focus on environmentally friendly technologies drives emissions reductions, tugboats are looking for ways to reduce or eliminate particulates while providing the horsepower needed where and when it is needed. It’s part of the focus of industry efforts to find out. As a result, NAVTEK has aggressively set zero-emission targets for tug design and has won multiple awards with his ZEETUG, the world’s first fully electric, zero-emission, rechargeable tug, which entered service in 2020. bottom.
Reducing carbon emissions by up to 230 tons per year, ZEETUG sets standards worldwide. In a similar effort, earlier this year the Port of Auckland welcomed its first ‘full-size’ all-electric tug, the Damen RSD-E Tug 2513 design. This reduces our carbon footprint by over 500 tons per year and allows us to produce over 75 tons of bollards. Pull.
Both the Damen and NAVTEK designs rely on advanced battery systems that allow the vessel to operate fully without the aid of a diesel generator. Despite these and other groundbreaking tug designs, few companies like NAVTEK are complete. “We maintain the same passion to achieve even more,” he said Acuner.
The tugboat sector’s trend away from diesel-fueled propulsion reflects a significant global withdrawal from hydrocarbons. But industry leaders such as e1 Marine, a marine hydrogen solutions provider, say this is just the beginning of a bigger transition. “As part of the global energy transition to net zero, tugboats and inland shipping face both challenges and opportunities in managing the use of energy for propulsion. We need a solution that maintains performance.”
Vancouver’s Shift is another innovative company that sees the energy transition as an unprecedented opportunity. Its overarching mission, according to CEO Brent Perry, is to decarbonize the marine industry with what they believe is a “combination of practical solutions.” Shift focuses on the industry segments that have the greatest impact on this zero-emissions goal, including tugboats. We consider tugboats to be quintessential for servicing all ports and cities of the world in the escort of ships of all kinds.
Whether in port applications, towing or pushing operations, Shift makes energy storage the ideal partner for tugs, optimizing the use of fuel-driven engines during peak power requirements and running on 100% electric during transit. I believe it works. By strategically placing its own services, such as PwrSwäp charging stations and battery swap stations, Shift will not only facilitate the installation of energy storage systems (ESS) on tugboats, but also on all-electric We also aim to build an infrastructure to support operations.
“Decarbonization and zero emissions are the themes,” says Perry. ”
During the transition between hydrocarbon-based fuels and their alternatives, Shift was an early thought leader, bringing ESS to ships in a way that has a significant positive environmental and financial impact. Partnerships between Shift, its customers, and other industry players are already improving costs to customers through the benefits of zero-emission operations at lower capital costs than building conventional boats.
With all the significant changes taking place, the industry’s energy transition requires significant collaboration within and across numerous sectors. Such joint efforts are essential for a smooth transition of the clean power movement, which includes not just batteries, but renewables such as solar and hydrogen.
Partnerships like those between e1 Marine and NAVTEK are working to bring hydrogen to market as a viable alternative fuel. The transition period is mandatory due to the particular focus on the large number of existing marine internal combustion engines. The two companies are combining efforts to develop practical hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Like Shift, this effort is well positioned to meet the need for safe, convenient and effective solutions for fuel cells to achieve “low or no pollution and to meet carbon emission targets.” ‘ avoids costly direct jumps from one technology to another. To Schluter on e1.
A faster migration is also underway. A breakthrough for the industry, e1 Marine’s methanol-to-hydrogen generator technology will be showcased when the first Hydrogen One tow vessel of its kind enters service on America’s inland waterways in 2023. Bringing all players to the table, Hydrogen One was developed and built by Maritime Partners and Intracoastal Iron Works in Louisiana, designed by Elliott Bay Design Group in Seattle, operated by American Commercial Barge Line, and operated by the Gulf Coast. transports large volumes of liquid products.
Across the tugboat sector, cooperation across commercial boundaries is seen as critical to the transition and evolution of the tugboat sector and the marine industry as a whole. Shift CEO Perry said:
change in driving
As a ubiquitous player in the maritime world, the tug industry is at the heart of a changing industry and world. Despite the somewhat capricious attention of the shipping market and the general public, tugboats, as mainstays of the maritime industry, must remain steadfast in their mission and ability to serve the industry.
The main competitive drivers among various industry partners focus not only on reducing or eliminating emissions, but on the potentially greater challenge of supporting a paradigm shift in the industry itself. His Acuner from NAVTEK said: industry. “
In fact, tug designers, operators and partners are leading the decarbonization process by embracing change rather than fighting it and championing evolutionary leaps in hybrid power plants and propulsion. “The maritime industry is slow to change and tends to be reluctant to accept first mover status,” says Schluter, of e1 Marine, who believes tugboats serve as the linchpin for the rest of the industry. . “Tugboat and barge operators can move more quickly as a beacon to the rest of the maritime industry due to their proximity to the coast.”
Chad Fuhrmann is a maritime consultant and founder of Revolution Consulting X Engineering.
The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.