Electric tugboats multiply in B.C. waters as SAAM Towage adds two to its fleet
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Mar 15, 2024
Nicholas Sokic

SAAM Towage, the largest marine towage company in the Americas, joins HaiSea Marine in acquiring the Canadian-designed electric tugs

SAAM Towage is a Chilean-based tugboat operator with more than 20 tugs in its B.C. fleet. In February, the SAAM Volta and Chief Dan George arrived in Vancouver after a 60-day voyage from Türkiye, where they were built at Sanmar Shipyards. Photo: SAAM Towage

SAAM Towage, the largest marine towage company in the Americas, joins HaiSea Marine in acquiring the Canadian-designed electric tugs

Last summer, the Port of Vancouver made news when HaiSea Marine took delivery of Canada’s first battery-powered all-electric tugboat, one of three electric tugs HaiSea would acquire in 2023.

Now, after last month’s delivery of the two electric tugboats to SAAM Towage, the number of all-electric, Canadian-designed tugboats set to start operating in B.C. coastal waters is up to five.

SAAM Towage is a Chilean-based tugboat operator with more than 20 tugs in its B.C. fleet. In February, the SAAM Volta and Chief Dan George arrived in Vancouver after a 60-day voyage from Türkiye, where they were built at Sanmar Shipyards.

The tugs are the same model, the ElectRA 2800 SX, as HaiSea’s tugs. They were designed by Vancouver-based naval architect firm Robert Allan Ltd. and are powered by Corvus Energy Orca lithium-ion battery banks.

Once in operation, they are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 2,400 tonnes per year. Electric tugs also generate significantly less underwater noise, the impact of which is a serious problem for whales and other marine animals.

Electric tugboats a collaborative venture

The SAAM Towage electric tugboat order came about as a result of a collaboration between it, mining company Teck and North Vancouver’s Neptune Terminals. The deal was first announced in October 2022.

“We continue to make progress on this milestone for SAAM Towage, which is part of our strategy to drive innovation and development for increasingly sustainable operations,” says SAAM Towage’s managing director Hernán Gómez in a statement.

The ElectRA 2800 SX model tugs are 23 metres long with a 12-metre beam (the width of the boat measured at its widest point). They have a bollard pull (the measure of the pulling power of a watercraft) of 70 tonnes.

According to a SAAM Towage video, the tugs have a battery capacity that permits up to four hours of continuous operation.

SAAM Towage says it expects the tugs to be commissioned in April.

HaiSea Marine, majority owned by Haisla Nation in partnership with Seaspan ULC, ordered its tugs — the HaiSea Wamis, HaiSea Wee’git and HaiSea Brave — to service the new LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat, B.C. Those vessels, along with two Sanmar-built LNG-fuelled tugs, will be transferred to Kitimat when the LNG Canada facility is complete.

SAAM Towage is the largest marine towage service provider in the Americas — with 210 tugs at over 90 ports — and the third-largest provider worldwide.

In January, it signed an agreement to add an electric tug to its Chilean fleet in 2025.

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