First fully electric U.S. tugboat to be powered by ABB

Written by Heather Ervin
Rendering of all-electric tug

Six-megawatt-hour energy storage system (ESS), wil allow Crowley’s eWolf tug to achieve 70 short tons of bollard pull emissions-free.

The recently announced eWolf tug–the first fully electric harbor tugboat in the U.S., built for sustainable and safe operations at the Port of San Diego in California—will feature an integrated electric propulsion system and advanced vessel control technology package from ABB.

On delivery by Alabama-based shipbuilder Master Boat Builders in mid-2023, Crowley Maritime Corporation’s new 82-foot (25-meter) vessel will support ship arrivals and departures at port. It will be the first all-electric, battery-powered harbor tug ever built and operated in the United States and only the third of its kind to enter operations worldwide.

“As many sectors of the marine industry are searching for new technology they have to recognize that the foundation of the marine world is changing,” said David Lee, senior account manager – commercial vessels, ABB Marine & Ports, who discussed this fact at Marine Log’s TTB (Tugs, Towboats & Barges) conference earlier this year. “We are in a time where we need to do right by the world where we live and no longer consume the world that has given so much. So, starting today we must design vessels that are safer, cleaner and smarter, and this is just to be competitive in the world of vessels that will be completely different in the short term let alone over the long life of a vessel that would be built today.

“The eWolf tug is the start of this transition for the workboat industry where the emissions will be greatly reduced through energy storage, the operation will be connected through ABB’s Remote Diagnostic Services, and safer for the crew through utilization of ABB Ability Marine Pilot Vision and Control.”

Tug operations can be demanding and often need to adapt to fast changing load requirements. Batteries provide power to the propulsion system almost instantaneously, making ship-assist operations more efficient with no emissions while delivering reliable ship assist and harbor escort services.

“We chose ABB on this project because future-proof ships will be built on the foundation of an electrical backbone, integrated with control systems that provide more efficient and safer operations,” says Ray Martus, vice president, Crowley Engineering Services, which is doing the design and on-site construction management at the shipyard. “ABB has deep expertise and recent, relevant experience related to battery systems on vessels and the corresponding regulatory framework with U.S. Coast Guard. The ABB solution provides intelligent maneuvering and control systems that enable safer, more efficient ship operations, and reduce the workload on masters and the crew to focus holistically on the overall control and positioning of the vessel. The result is a high performing vessel run by a crew who can best focus on their job safely assisting vessels at the Port of San Diego.”


Under a contract with Master Boat Builders, ABB is supplying the end-to-end electric propulsion system to sustain emissions-free operations in waters off the eighth most populous city in the United States. The solution will include a six-megawatt-hour energy storage system (ESS), allowing the eWolf to achieve 70 short tons of bollard pull emissions-free. The battery allows the tug to complete a full day of typical work before there is a need to charge.

Achieving lower operational costs on a through-life basis than an equivalent vessel running a conventional engine, the all-electric propulsion solution holds the potential to eliminate the equivalent of over 100 cars worth of CO2 pollution every year, according to ABB.

Crowley says the new vessel will embody its commitment to sustainable shipping solutions going forward.

“The eWolf’s innovative propulsion system and advanced control technology will provide a sustainable ship assist solution with increased safety and capabilities,” said Crowley’s Porter Sesnon, director, business development for ship assist and offshore services. “Crowley looks forward to working with ABB and Master Boat Builders to deliver this groundbreaking ship assist tug and to provide customers in San Diego with a zero-emission, high-performing vessel.”

Systems on board will also feature products from the ABB Ability Marine Pilot family for enhancing crew safety and reducing workload. ABB Ability Marine Pilot Vision situational awareness solution will provide 360-degree visibility from the pilot’s station, and ABB Ability Marine Control will enable maneuvering support and future remote operations.

“At ABB, we are pioneering the adoption of electric, digital and connected technologies for greater sustainability in the Americas and globally, as well as helping shipowners deploy the automated systems that advance maritime safety,” said Lee. “It is an honor to have been selected by Crowley—a company renowned for reliability in service provision, whose goals on the environment and safety align so closely with our own.”

In addition to systems integration, engineering and automation on the newbuilding, ABB will supply its award-wining Onboard DC Grid power distribution system platform for optimized energy use. Onboard DC Grid enables seamless integration of battery for zero-emissions operations by using renewables as an energy source. The full scope of supply also includes propulsion motors, low-voltage switchboards, transformers, li-ion batteries mechanical L-drive thrusters and the ABB Ability Remote Diagnostics System for Marine for continuous equipment monitoring and predictive maintenance.

All-electric tug will showcase several ABB solutions
Credit: Crowley Maritime
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