HaiSea Marine debuts Canada’s first all-electric tugboat off Vancouver
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Jul 27, 2023
Josh Kozelj

The HaiSea Wamis, flagship of Haisea Marine, a Haisla Nation-Seaspan ULC joint venture , is one of three Canadian-designed electric tugs that will service a new LNG export facility in Kitimat, B.C.

The HaiSea Wamis, arriving in Vancouver Harbour under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, is the first of three all-electric tugboats commissioned by HaiSea Marine to service a new LNG export facility in Kitimat, B.C. Photo: Mike Savage, 21Stops

The HaiSea Wamis, flagship of HaiSea Marine, a Haisla Nation-Seaspan joint venture, is one of three Canadian-designed electric tugs that will service a new LNG export facility in Kitimat, B.C.

Canada’s first all-electric harbour tugboat made its debut off the coast of Vancouver earlier this month. 

On July 8, HaiSea Marine, a joint venture between the Haisla Nation and Seaspan ULC, unveiled the HaiSea Wamis, a boat with a pulling capacity of 70 tonnes that runs on 5,288 kWh of battery power. 

The Wamis, named after a Haisla explorer, is one of five vessels that are slated to arrive in Vancouver before moving north to provide ship-assist and towing services to carrier boats at a new LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat, B.C. 

“The arrival of the HaiSea Wamis in British Columbia was a special moment for HaiSea Marine because it marked a dream coming true for HaiSea and our partners, Haisla Nation and LNG Canada,” wrote Jordan Pechie, senior vice-president of Seaspan Marine Transportation, in an email interview with Electric Autonomy.

HaiSea Marine is expected to welcome two more all-electric tugboats and two ships that will run on a combination of LNG and diesel to their fleet by the end of 2023. 

Canadian roots in the design

While built at Türkiye’s Sanmar Shipyards, HaiSea’s three fully electric tugboats are designed by Robert Allan Ltd., a Vancouver-based naval architecture and marine engineering firm.  

The tugboat design, dubbed the ElectRA 2800 series, has a propulsion system specifically designed to help freighter vessels on and off the berths at the LNG Canada terminal. 

“The ElectRA 2800 harbour tugs are designed to perform their regular missions using 100 percent battery electric power,” Pechie wrote. 

Those batteries can reach full charge in as little as four hours. 

Corvus Energy, a marine battery manufacturer with operations in Richmond, B.C., where it was founded in 2009 before relocating its head office to Norway in 2018 (it is owned by a group of mostly European investors), is supplying the batteries for the Wamis and the two remaining tugboats.

Since developing the ElectRA 2800 series, Robert Allan has unveiled several other ElectRA series of electric tugs designed for different applications.

In May, the Wamis was named International Tug & Salvage’s 2023 Tug of the Year. To get to Vancouver from Türkiye, the tug crossed the Atlantic Ocean under its own power and, en route, became the first electric tug to pass through the Panama Canal.

Close up of portion of red/black Haisea Wamis electric tugboat with a person on deck
The HaiSea Wamis docking in Vancouver. Photo: Mike Savage, 21Stops

The future of all-electric tugs

Pechie said the entire HaiSea fleet was designed to reduce the impact on the environment. He credited his organization’s partnership with the Haisla Nation in creating the new tugboat fleet. 

“Together we pushed the envelope on what was possible and we built something new that didn’t exist within our industry,” Pechie wrote. 

Specifically, he added, the electric tugboats will eliminate the company’s particulate matter, sulphur oxide, and nitrogen oxide emissions. 

Each of the tugs is also expected to eliminate approximately 1,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. This is comparable to the carbon emissions of nearly 1,000 cars.

The Wamis will be based in Vancouver until the LNG Canada facility is operational. 

The new Kitimat facility, which is located on the traditional territory of the Haisla Nation, is roughly “85 per cent” complete, according to a press release published this month by LNG Canada CEO Jason Klein. 

The facility has received environmental approval from the provincial and federal governments, while the David Suzuki Foundation has denounced fracking — a process used to source natural gas — and said that the facility will be the “single biggest source of climate pollution in the province” when it’s operational. 

When the project is complete, the fleet will be relocated to Kitimat and create jobs for people in the Haisla, Gitxaala, and Gitga’at Nations. 

While HaiSea Marine doesn’t have ambitions to expand it current fleet further at the moment, Pechie views the Wamis’ arrival as part of a wider shift to electric modes of transportation within the marine industry. 

“There are just under 30 orders around the world for fully electric tugboats,” he wrote. “I’m happy to say that [HaiSea Wamis] will be the first of many.”

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