Ports of Auckland welcome world’s first full-sized electric tugboat

Ports of Auckland are June 21 welcoming an exciting addition to their fleet, with the arrival of the world’s first full size, ship-handling electric tug. Affectionately named Sparky, as voted by New Zealanders in a public vote in 2020, the e-tug is part of an innovative project that no other port globally has previously embarked on.

Sparky marks the beginning of a new era for the Auckland Port, who are anticipating saving approximately 465 tons of CO2 in diesel emissions annually from the e-tug addition alone. 

Roger Gray, CEO of Ports of Auckland says, “Welcoming Sparky is an exciting day for us at the Ports of Auckland. Her arrival marks a big step towards the ports’ decarbonization of operations and towards our long-term emissions reduction goals.”

The expected cost of operating Sparky is less than a third of the cost of running a diesel tug. Battery operated, the e-tug has a recharge time of approximately two hours and can run up to four shipping moves on one charge. 

For Allan D’Souza, GM Marine and Multi Cargo at Ports of Auckland and lead on the e-tug project, the arrival of Sparky has been six years in the making. “Back in 2016 when we first pitched the idea for a fully electric tug, we were told we were dreaming. To finally welcome her to Tāmaki Makaurau now is incredible.”

“You’ll be able to spot Sparky on the water as her superstructure is painted bright green, unlike our diesel tugs” says D’Souza. “What you won’t notice is noise or smoke; being electric she’s a lot quieter, and cleaner, than our current diesel tugs.”

There will be approximately six weeks of testing in Auckland before Sparky is fully commissioned and operational. “E-tugs are the future for ship handling and Ports of Auckland are proud to have led the way,” says Gray.

Sparky is the first Damen RSD-E Tug 2513. She has a six-metre draft, is 24.73 length and has two azimuth thrusters with three-metre diameter propellers.  Sparky has a 70-ton bollard pull (the same as the port’s strongest diesel tug, Hauraki).  There are 80 battery racks holding 2,240 batteries, totaling 2,784 kWh of power.

To ensure absolute safety – of utmost importance in shipping – Sparky also has two 1000kW back-up generator sets which will only be used in cases of emergency or some fault that is not part of business as usual. The port expects to use them at most, once or twice a year.

Photo credit: Ports of Auckland.

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