March 31, 2021 - BY Admin

Tectonic shift towards green operations for tug owners

Tug owners and designers discussed port trends and environmental regulations during Riviera’s How tug operators are preparing for a new era in green marine propulsion webinar


European tug owners and naval architects discussed the role alternative fuels, all-electric options and hybrid-electric propulsion will play in reducing the environmental footprint of vessels in ports.


European Tugowners Association chairman Kimmo Lehto, Boluda Towage Europe chief executive Geert Vandecappelle, Navtek Naval Technologies business development manager Cansu Tuncer and general manager Ferhat Acuner, and LionRock Maritime founder and managing director Rick Broersma debated what the tug industry’s green propulsion requirements will be to 2030 and beyond.


This webinar, sponsored by Navtek and LionRock, was held on 29 March 2021 as part of Riviera’s ITS TUGTECHNOLOGY Webinar Week, which was supported by the European Tugowners Association and UK Maritime Pilots Association.


Mr Lehto explained that tug owners need to consider green propulsion and emissions-reduction solutions as there is growing pressure from authorities and regulators to reduce emissions in ports.


“There are more requirements for environmental-friendly technology in the logistics chains, including on tugs,” said Mr Lehto. “We are moving towards a more sustainable harbour towage industry.”


But he said clients require safe and efficient towage and competitive pricing. “Customers want the most energy-efficient way to use tugs,” he said.


Mr Vandecappelle outlined how his company was a pioneer in deploying hybrid propulsion on tugboats, starting with Rotortug RT Adriaan (now named VB Kracht) in 2012. It then helped to develop and operate a second generation of hybrid propulsion on tugs. His company took delivery of advanced Rotortugs built to ART 80-32 design, RT Evolution and RT Emotion in 2015.


“The first generation had a lot of issues we needed to put right in the second generation,” said Mr Vandecappelle. This included positioning batteries in one location at the bottom of RT Adriaan, whereas they were split into different rooms on RT Evolution and RT Emotion.


He said the benefits of hybrid propulsion include “reduced emissions, lower fuel use and maintenance savings”.


Boluda said ART 80-32 design tugs with hybrid propulsion had 35% less particulate matter, 36% fewer unburnt hydrocarbons, 32% lower NOx and 35% less CO2. “It is safer for crew as there are less emissions,” said Mr Vandecappelle.


Ms Tuncer presented Navtek’s all-electric tug designs and quick-charging stations. She said the success of the first all-electric Zeetug Gisas Power had led to more orders for these tugs.


“Zee-Tech represents next-generation green technology by being rechargeable and fully electric with almost no noise and vibration,” said Ms Tuncer. “This innovative design allows the vessels to operate with higher efficiency without harming the environment.”


Navtek developed a smart tug energy-management system on these all-electric tugs and quick-charging stations for the ports they operate within.


Mr Acuner confirmed Navtek had secured contracts to provide design and engineering support to construct two more Zeetug30 tugs with 30 tonnes of bollard pull. These will be similar to 2020-delivered Gisas Power, which is operating in Turkey. 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,” said Mr Acuner. “We are planning completion by the end of this year.”


He thinks more electric-powered tugs will be built in the future, but with financial support from authorities. “Subsidies are needed to support new investment in exchange for more environmental tugs,” Mr Acuner said.


Mr Broersma had an alternative view, as he thinks tug owners can generate considerable savings in fuel by cutting speed during transits. A survey of tug operations in more than 50 ports worldwide shows many tugs are sailing over their economic, or optimised, speeds where they consume the lowest amount of fuel.


“There is a lot of potential to save fuel,” he said. “Most tug speeds are 30-70% in excess of their eco speeds, which equals more CO2 emissions that could be avoided.”


Owners need to tackle the reasons for speeding including human factors, the need for rapid dispatch and operational requirements.


“There could be up to 20-25% fuel and CO2 savings by reducing freesailing speeds from 52% over eco speed down to 10%,” said Mr Broersma.


Other panellists agreed reducing tug transit and mobilisation speeds was a short-term measure for cutting fuel costs and emissions.


Attendees were asked how they keep track of their tugs’ sailing speeds during freesailing. Of those responding, 32% said they did not track tug sailing speeds, 24% said they use automated speed alerts, 19% would use Automatic Identification System (AIS) data from websites as MarineTraffic or Vesseltracker and 25% said they use something else.


The panel and attendees also discussed alternative fuel and hybrid technologies for meeting long-term decarbonisation goals. Attendees were asked which propulsion technology is most viable for their operations. Of those who responded, 61% said hybrid propulsion, 14% said fully electric, 8% thought hydrogen was an option, 6% LNG and 11% said something else.


They were also asked what the number-one energy source for harbour tugs in 30 years’ time would be. Of the responses, 47% said batteries, 40% said hydrogen, with 7% saying biofuel, 3% LNG and 3% ammonia.


In another poll, attendees were asked whether all-electric technology was viable: 58% agreed, 18% strongly agreed, with 23% disagreeing, while just 1% strongly disagreed.


Attendees were then asked which of the following areas they would focus on when decarbonising: 36% said operational efficiency, 34% alternative fuels, 26% technical efficiency, 3% something else and 1% selected none of the above.


In another poll question, attendees were asked if they would advise other shipping companies to make the innovations and investment, even though they are not currently generating additional income. There was strong agreement with 63% voting to agree, 19% strongly agreed, with 16% disagreeing and 3% strongly disagreeing.


There was also general agreement (54% agreeing and 37% strongly agreeing) with this long statement.


“The European Green Deal for 2050 is a sense of urgency for the entire maritime sector. The question is whether we are ready for it. Doing nothing is not an option. If we do not undertake something, it could become a threat to our business and sector. By encouraging other towage companies to join in sustainability, we can bring a better balance to market terms and sustainable conditions.” 7% of respondents disagreed and 2% strongly disagreed.


Attendees were also in general agreement with this statement (61% strongly agreed and 28% agreed).


“The government and port authorities have an important social role to play in making the provision of subsidies and possibilities for financing more transparent. We recommend they seek a close co-operation with the business community and ask their advice about the possibilities and impossibilities.” 3% disagreed, 3% strongly disagreed and 6% neither agreed nor disagreed.


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Panellist at Riviera’s How tug operators are preparing for a new era in green marine propulsion webinar were (left to right) European Tugowners Association chairman Kimmo Lehto, Boluda Towage Europe chief executive Geert Vandecappelle, LionRock Maritime founder and managing director Rick Broersma, Navtek Naval Technologies business development manager Cansu Tuncer and general manager Ferhat Acuner