Tug operators need to work together to encourage the whole port and shipping industry to invest in greener harbour vessels.
They should take the lead in encouraging regulators to set emissions levels and port authorities to recognise greener operators through financial incentives. Only then will tug owners be able to make the capital investments needed for tugboats with lower emissions.
This was the overall view of panelists and delegates at the European Tugowners Association (ETA) conference in London this week.
During the first session, tug designers, shipbuilders and engine manufacturers discussed how the tug sector should work together to reduce emissions of sulphur, nitrogen, carbon gases and of particulate matter.
Introducing tugboats with LNG fuel or hybrid propulsion would achieve these goals, and European tug owners need to become world leaders in these investments.
However, owners face challenging market conditions and high competition in Europe, which leaves little cash to invest in clean technologies.
Robert Allan manager of project development Jim Hyslop said legislators need to drive the tug industry towards greener operations by setting emissions levels, because “there is not an economic case for reducing emissions”.
Sanmar Shipyards director of sales for Asia, Middle East and Africa, Gary Dockerty said local tariff incentives would be needed for tugboat owners to consider investing in hybrid or LNG propulsion. However, port authorities were not interested in reducing tug emissions unless public opinion affects their decisions.
Damen Shipyards product manager for tugs Dirk Degroote said the ETA could play an important role in lobbying regulators. He thinks tug operators should record fuel consumption to estimate gaseous emissions and provide this information to regulators.
MTU’s Sebastian Schwarz said emissions regulations in the US, set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has driven some tug owners to invest in new tugs with hybrid propulsion, selective catalytic reduction units and exhaust reinjection to comply with EPA Tier 3 and Tier 4 requirements.
EPA regulations also cover existing tugs. “When they repower, owners are required to go up a level as an improvement to installed equipment,” Mr Schwarz said.
Caterpillar Marine Solution Center manager Jonas Granath said tug operators can reduce operating expenditure through using existing clean propulsion technology, such as batteries, dual-fuel engines, or even steaming on one engine.
Mr Schwarz said owners could reduce fuel consumption and emissions by training onboard crew. “There would be huge benefits if people are motivated to reduce consumption,” he said.
The panel discussed using alternative fuels for tug propulsion. Mr Schwarz said synthetic fuels could reduce emissions. These could be synthetic diesel produced through gas-to-liquids or biomass-to-liquids processes. “These are sustainable fuels with emissions benefits, positives in cleaner engines and less maintenance costs,” he said.
Synthetic fuels could reduce soot emissions by 40-50%, almost eliminate SOx and reduce NOx by 20%. Mr Granath said biogas could be considered for tug propulsion. He also thinks harbour tugs with batteries could be charged from a shore-based power source as they do not sail far from the port and have a dedicated berth.
This panel discussion was moderated by ACL Shipbrokers' Alec Laing who outlined the solutions for reducing tugboat emissions, including hybrid and electric-only propulsion, with batteries that could be leased to lower the upfront capital costs and lower maintenance costs. Mr Laing highlighted efforts in New Zealand, where Auckland port authority wants to have zero port emissions by 2040.