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Zero-emissions tugs begin work in British Columbia

SAAM’s ElectRA tugs will run on batteries during transit and ship manoeuvres at the Neptune terminal

Posted on April 22, 2024

Two electric tugs were named in Vancouver, Canada, ready to manoeuvre bulk carriers in a coal export terminal, as SAAM plans to add another in Chile

Chile-headquartered SAAM introduced its first two electric-powered tugboats in Vancouver, western Canada to provide zero-emissions towage while it focuses future investments on its tug operations.

SAAM Towage Canada welcomed two Dynamo-series battery electric tugs – SAAM Volta and Chief Dan George – in April and expects them to begin handling ships at a terminal in the British Columbia city’s port in May.

These fully electric, zero-emissions tugboats were built by Sanmar Shipyards in Turkey to Robert Allan Ltd’s ElectRA 2300-SX design with Corvus Energy’s battery modules on board. These 23-m tugboats arrived in February on cargo ship BBC Emerald following a voyage across the Atlantic, through the Magellan Strait and into the eastern Pacific.

They have a beam of 12 m, a draught of around 5 m and a bollard pull of 70 tonnes to handle bulk carriers at the Neptune Terminal, which is used by Teck Resources to export coal for the steel industry.

In April, SAAM Towage held an official naming ceremony in Vancouver with representatives from the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh indigenous nations, provincial government officials, Teck Resources, Neptune Terminals and SAAM’s partners Oldendorff Carriers and BC Hydro, which will provide renewable power to the tugs at a dedicated charging station on a quayside.

British Columbia premier David Eby says the electric tugboats will begin operating around Vancouver’s harbour in May. “The reduction in pollution from these electric tugs is the equivalent of taking 600 vehicles off the road. The future is happening right now in British Columbia,” he says.

SAAM chief executive Macario Valdés says commissioning these tugs demonstrates the group is “taking a decisive step into the future”. He adds, “Our first electric tugs are proof of our commitment to move towards increasingly sustainable operations, seeking the best solutions tailored to each customer and the conditions at each port.”

SAAM predicts its battery electric tugs will, combined, reduce CO2 emissions by 2,400 tonnes annually and emit considerably less marine noise, reducing the impact on the environment and aquatic life in the Port of Vancouver.

“By adding electric-powered tugboats to our fleet, SAAM Towage is leading the way in maritime operations,” says SAAM Towage Canada president Sander Bikkers. “We aim to set a positive example for the industry in the hope others will join us and follow suit here in Canada and globally.”

This ceremony came after the SAAM group confirmed its focus on towage and tug operations in the long term, after selling its port terminals and inland logistics division in 2023. SAAM chairman Óscar Hasbún outlines the objectives for the company’s new phase.

“SAAM has robust solvency and liquidity indicators and a solid capital structure for this new cycle where our objective is clear: to become a leading global operator in the towage business,” he says. “We are already a benchmark in this business and have developed a unique operating model, which has had positive results.”

SAAM will continue to seek growth opportunities “beyond the borders within which we operate, continuing the role of consolidator that we have played to date.” Mr Hasbún recalls that in the last five years, SAAM has completed more than US$600M acquiring companies and assets, the latest being the acquisition of the port fleet of Starnav in Brazil. “We have shifted from a predominantly investor role to an operator with controlling positions in critical infrastructure services in maritime,” Mr Hasbún says.

He also highlights progress made in environmental matters, including welcoming electric tugs in British Columbia and a project to introduce Latin America’s first electric, zero-emissions tug to Chile through an agreement with Empresa Nacional del Petróleo.

SAAM intends to operate this Dynamo-type vessel in Puerto Chacabuco, in the Aysén region, one of the world’s most southern terminals, providing emissions-free berthing and undocking services for tankers, while reducing onboard and underwater noise.

The 27th International Tug & Salvage Convention, Exhibition & Awards will be held in association with Caterpillar in Dubai, UAE, 21-23 May 2024. Use this link for more details of this industry event and the associated social and networking opportunities; and this link to book your ticket for the exhibition, social gatherings and awards night.


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