Monday, January 17, 2022
Maritime Propulsion

December 22, 2021

New Fully-electric Towboats Will be the First in the US

Artist rendering of the zero emissions, fully electric towboat. (Image: ISS)

A series of four fully-electric, zero-emissions towboats announced this week are set to become the first built in North America as vessel owners and operators continue to explore new avenues to decarbonize.

The new towboats, designed to support cleaner container transport in America's ports and inland waterways, will be built for New York-based Zeeboat and available for charter from 2025. Notably, they'll run entirely on battery power, without the use of diesel engines—a first for towboats in the U.S.

Industrial Service Solutions (ISS) said on Tuesday it has been selected to provide general contract, project management and vessel support services for the manufacture and delivery of the first-of-their-kind vessels. Zeeboat and ISS said they also aim to partner on future ports electrification projects, "as the towboat charging infrastructure lends itself to expansion".

Zeeboat CEO Jonathan Braun said, "The fully electric towboats that Zeeboat will make available for charter will be vessels for change, applying commercially proven, leading-edge technologies that are both environmentally friendly and economically advantageous, reducing operating costs as well as carbon emissions."

The new vessels will be built to The Shearer Group, Inc.'s (TSGI) proven hull design for a 95- by 34-foot towboat, which is said to increase water flow to the propeller and improve overall efficiency of the barge/towboat combination by more than 10% compared to traditional towboat designs. When coupled with an azimuth thruster pod drive system, the hull design will improve overall efficiency by more than 30% when compared to conventional towboats, the company said.

A spokesperson for TSGI told MarineLink that some of the design details are still a work in progress, and that the partners have not yet invited shipyards to bid for construction.

Shift Clean Energy—formerly known as Sterling PlanB (SPBES)—will provide the battery energy storage systems (ESS). ISS is Shift Clean Energy's sole channel partner for the U.S.

Shift CEO Brent Perry said, "The message the marine industry received in Glasgow at COP26 was clear: this is the time to make change. Shift couldn't be more excited to be partnering with visionary leaders like ISS and Zeeboat who are making electrification happen now and helping the industry get to zero emissions."

Joshua Sebastian, engineering manager at TSGI, said, "We at TSGI are excited to participate with this outstanding team in ushering in the new age of towboat and harbor boat operations for the marine industry."

ISS CEO Wade Stockstill said, "ISS is honored to have been chosen as the general contractor supporting the build of these world-class towboats and are excited to be at the forefront of the industry through its transition to a more sustainable future."

ISS director of business development Jessica Lewis said, "We are excited to support Zeeboat in its mission to become a significant owner of fully electric vessels for charter. Together with our industry partners, we have developed these state-of-the-art and technologically advanced towboats and look forward to supporting decarbonization efforts for our inland waterways."