A leading designer of battery-powered tugboats explains the challenges of implementing these projects and the opportunities ahead
Navtek Naval Technologies is presenting its revolutionary Zeetug series of electric-powered tugboat designs to industry stakeholders to generate interest in reducing emissions in harbour towage. This follows the first Zeetug Gisas Power manoeuvring ships in Turkey for more than 18 months.
But garnering interest from port authorities and tug owners has been challenged by restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic and short-term viewpoints.
Navtek Naval Technologies business development manager Cansu Tuncer says most owners want to purchase diesel-powered tugs to expand their fleets despite aspirations in the maritime industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 2030, 2040 and 2050 targets.
“Most of the owners and operators are still not prepared for the new regulations,” says Ms Tuncer. “Most think buying a diesel tug today and refitting when the times comes will be ok.”
Although this pushes capital expenditure on green propulsion further ahead in years, Ms Tuncer says this is the wrong strategy, based on a lack of experience and information.
“The main reason is the set up of an electric tug is completely different than diesel,” she tells International Tug & Salvage. “We have been preparing studies and we see that refitting a diesel tug is almost the same cost as buying a new electric tug.”
Therefore, owners and operators should consider building electric-power now for the future of low-carbon propulsion in harbours and terminals.
“Another point is the present and future operations routines,” says Ms Tuncer. “With today’s available green, electric technology, the operation routines may need to change because of the charging needs.”
Seafarers and port workers also need to be trained to operate tugs with batteries on board and use port-based charging stations.
Ms Tuncer says Navtek has developed more Zeetug designs and is working on a method for charging batteries during operations. “We are developing a project for charging while free spinning, improving efficiency” she says. “We are also in negotiations with a major worldwide tug operator regarding the development of electric and hydrogen power together.
Ms Tuncer presented Navtek’s all-electric tug designs and quick-charging stations at Riviera’s How tug operators are preparing for a new era in green marine propulsion webinar at the end of March 2021. At the time, she said the success of Gisas Power had led to more interest in the Zeetug series. Navtek also developed a smart tug energy-management system for these all-electric tugs and quick-charging stations for the ports they operate within.
Her colleague, Navtek general manager Ferhat Acuner, said two more Zeetug30 tugs, similar to Gisas Power and with 30 tonnes of bollard pull, would be built. Navtek also has a Zeetug45 design for an electric-powered tug with 45 tonnes of bollard pull. “We have already signed the contracts and their building has started,” Mr Acuner said during the webinar. “We are planning completion by the end of this year.” He expects more electric-powered tugs to be built in the future, but with financial support from authorities.
Navtek has developed the Zeetug series to cover vessels with bollard pulls from 5 tonnes to 80 tonnes.