Even Tugboats are Going Green

    A new tugboat fleet set for Kitimat is the first of its kind.

    Kitimat's new fleet of fuel-efficient tugboats - Douglas Dec/Jan 2023 2024 Issue
    Kitimat's new fleet of fuel-efficient tugboats includes the world's first electric tugs.

    Kitimat on B.C.’s north-central coast will soon be home to a revolutionary tugboat fleet. 

    Jointly owned by the Haisla First Nations and Seaspan, the marine service company HaiSea commissioned the fleet, which comprises five vessels, three of which are the world’s first all-electric tugs. The other two are among the first tugs that run on diesel and liquified natural gas. 

    Made by Sanmar Shipbuilders in Istanbul, two electric tugs have arrived at Seaspan’s North Vancouver port. The rest of the fleet will arrive by January 2024.

    HaiSea formed in 2019 to pursue a 12-year contract worth $500 million to supply and operate the tugs needed to dock and escort LNG carriers at LNG Canada’s forthcoming export facility in Kitimat. 

    Seaspan senior vice-president Jordan Pechie says HaiSea is based on two pillars, the first of which is generational employment. Operating a tugboat fleet is no small feat, and the company will eventually employ 70 sailors and six onshore professionals to do so. 

    The second pillar is environmental stewardship, hence the fleet’s makeup. The electric models, each of which holds enough charge to power 70 Teslas, are a promising alternative to diesel-powered tugs — especially at a time when swift, creative solutions are needed to mitigate global warming. Annually, electric and LNG-diesel models produce less carbon-dioxide emissions than diesel-powered alternatives (54 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively).

    That’s what makes the HaiSea fleet arguably the greenest in the world. Compared to a five-tug, diesel-only fleet, HaiSea’s fleet will save 9,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. That’s equal to the yearly emissions of 2,000 passenger vehicles. 

    The marine industry has noticed HaiSea’s new fleet, especially the electric tugs. “We’ve given over 120 tours here at Seaspan from companies all over the world,” says Pechie. “The international attention has been nothing short of amazing.”