VIDEO: Auckland orders world’s first all electric ship-handling tug

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Artist's impression of Damen E-tug

New Zealand’s Ports of Auckland Ltd has signed a contract with the Damen Shipyards Group for the delivery of an innovative new vessel.

The RSD-E Tug 2513 will be the first fully-electric ship-handling tug in the world with 70 tonnes bollard pull, the same as the port’s most powerful diesel tug Hauraki, also built by Damen..

The electric tug is based on Damen’s RSD Tug 2513, unveiled in 2018, which already has good green credentials, being fuel-efficient and IMO Tier III ready.

When the Ports of Auckland was looking to go a step further in terms of sustainable performance, it turned to Damen.

“We have set ourselves the goal of being zero emission by 2040,” says Tony Gibson, CEO of Ports of Auckland. “To meet this goal we needed to find a zero emission option for our tugs.”

Noting that one of the hurdles the port had to get over was cost,” Gibson said, “the purchase price of this tug is significant, at roughly double that of a diesel tug, and that is an important consideration for a business that needs to make a profit. However, we are prepared to wear that up-front cost because our commitment to reduce emissions has to be more than just words.

Fortunately, the cost of operating an electric tug is less than a third of the cost of running a diesel tug. So while we pay more up front, over the life of the tug we’ll save around NZ$12 million (US$ 8 million) in operating costs, making our electric tug cheaper in the long term,” Gibson concluded.

“When we first looked into buying an electric tug in 2016, there was nothing on the market,” said Allan D’Souza, Ports of Auckland’s General Manager for Marine, Engineering and General Wharf Operations. “We are very happy with our existing Damen ASD Tug 2411 and we knew Damen were building hybrid tugs, so Damen was a logical choice for a partner when we wanted to look at the possibility of developing a fully electric model. Damen’s willingness to think differently and invest in the necessary research and development has been critical to the success of this project.”

Damen took data from the operational performance of Ports of Auckland’s existing ASD Tug 2411 and was able to work out what the battery requirements would be for the RSD-E Tug 2513.

Damen’s role in the development and construction of the RSD-E Tug 2513 extends beyond shipbuilding. Damen is involved in the entire process, including the charging station, which is based on technology that has already demonstrated it credentials in the automotive industry. A simple system, it features four cables on the vessel being connected to the station. Once connected, the 1.5 MW charger takes just two hours to fully charge RSD-E Tug 2513.

To ensure absolute safety the tug also has two 1,000 kW generator sets. They provide enough power for the tug to operate at 40 tonnes bollard pull in the event of an electrical system failure or if the vessel needs to operate beyond its battery capacity. This is not a hybrid system. In normal operation, the generators will not be used as the vessel and its battery system have been designed to meet the port’s normal operational needs.

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