Corvus Energy

Corvus Energy battery systems for Panama Canal’s ten new hybrid tugs

Norwegian energy storage company Corvus Energy has been contracted to supply battery systems for ten hybrid tractor tugboats ordered by the Panama Canal Authority.

Courtesy of Corvus Energy

In October 2023, the Panama Canal Authority ordered the ten tugboats for $150 million from Spanish shipbuilder Astilleros Armón, with options for another ten similar vessels.

The tugboats will be equipped with hybrid-electric propulsion systems to reduce emissions during ship towage through the Panama Canal and while docking in Panamanian ports.

Corvus Energy will provide battery energy storage systems — 450 kWh of Corvus Orca ESS — for each vessel.

“Corvus Energy is pleased to have been selected to supply the battery systems for this landmark project for the Panama Canal Authority and Astilleros Armón,” Fredrik Witte, Corvus Energy CEO, commented.

As explained, battery systems in hybrid-electric tugs have been proven to cut vessel emissions significantly. The new tugboat fleet is said to represent a step forward in the waterway’s sustainability strategy to reach net-zero GHG emissions by or around 2050.

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The Panama Canal expansion has resulted in larger container ships, LNG carriers, cruise ships, tankers and dry bulk carriers using the shipping shortcut between the Pacific and Caribbean – requiring the services of more powerful tugboats and pilot vessels.

With the acquisition of these new vessels, the Panama Canal Authority is seeking to enhance its shiphandling capabilities, modernize its fleet and replace tugs it charters from other owners.

Worldwide, tugboats were among the first maritime vessels to adopt battery technology due to their near shore operations and ability to recharge regularly, with the first hybrid tugboats entering operation as early as 2011 followed by fully electric, zero-emission tugboats in 2019.

In North America, the first all-electric tugboats are entering the market now. In Western Canada, both HaiSea Marine and SAAM Towage recently launched their respective fleets of all-electric tugboats.

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In the United States, the first fully electric tugboat, the Crowley eWolf, will soon begin operations in the Port of San Diego, and several other U.S. ports are applying for federal funding under the “Green Ports Program” to invest in electric tugboats and onshore charging infrastructure.

As the maritime sector increasingly pursues carbon reduction initiatives, the number of hybrid-electric and fully electric tugboats worldwide is projected to grow exponentially.