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Trailblazing Electric Tugboat Hits the Waves, Powered by Over 2,000 Batteries

Sparky is a cute name for a powerful tugboat that’s paving the way for emission-free port operations in New Zealand.
Sparky the electric tugboat made its debut in New Zealand 7 photos
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A tugboat might not be as fascinating as a luxury yacht or cruise ship, but it’s vital for maritime operations. If it’s turned into an eco-friendly vehicle, it could win the hearts of many people. This is what Sparky did, which got its name as a result of a public vote in New Zealand. Two years later, it hit the waves for the first time, flaunting its bright green silhouette, meant to distinguish it from the Ports of Auckland’s conventional tugboats.

Six years ago, the idea of an all-electric tugboat hardly seemed possible, and Allan D'Souza’s plan was met with skepticism. But he eventually became the e-tug project leader, and now he can see his dream coming true. New Zealand’s first e-tug, and of the first of its kind in the world, was recently welcomed to the Ports of Auckland.

Like other large ports, such as the Port of Gothenburg, the port for New Zealand’s largest city is planning to become emissions-free by 2040. Sparky’s debut is a huge step in that direction. This pioneering vessel will help save 465 tons of CO2 emissions each year. Another benefit will be the reduced operation costs, up to three times lower than those of a diesel tugboat.

Built by the acclaimed Damen shipyard, Sparky is the first in its RSD-E Tug series. At a length of 81 feet (24.7 meters) it boasts an impressive 77-ton (70 tonnes) bollard pull, which means that it’s just as strong as the port’s most powerful diesel tug.

In addition to the two azimuth thrusters with propellers boasting a 3-meter (9.8 feet) diameter, Sparky is equipped with no less than 2,240 batteries, supported by 80 battery racks. With a total output of 2,784 kWh, the e-tug can complete four shipping moves on a single charge. It needs two hours to recharge, and the two 1,000 kW back-up generator sets make sure that Sparky can face emergency situations.

For the next six weeks, New Zealand’s pioneering e-tug will be tested around the Auckland area, before it’s ready to kick off operations.

press release

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