Europe’s 1st all-electric tug on the horizon as part of Port of Antwerp-Bruges tug renewal deal with Damen

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges has placed an order for six new tugs with Dutch shipbuilder Damen as part of the company’s ongoing fleet renewal.

Image credit: Damen

The series includes five diesel-powered RSD Tugs 2513, equipped with Damen Marine NOx Reduction System, and one electric tug, which has been described as Europe’s very first all-electric tug, the RSD-E Tug 2513.

The RSD-E Tug 2513 builds on the Reversed Stern Drive platform to offer zero emissions performance, leveraging its fully electric propulsion. The vessel can operate with a crew of just two or three persons, and it can be fully charged in two hours, according to Damen.

The tugs will feature a minimized environmental footprint, reduced noise levels, and be IMO Tier-III compliant. The six new tugs will be fitted with extensive fire-fighting capabilities that can be used to support Antwerp’s land-based fire-fighting teams.

With building already underway, the vessels will be delivered between late 2024 and early 2025, with the RSD-E Tug 2513 being the first. Damen will also be delivering the charger and onshore electrical infrastructure for the new arrival.

With the purchase of these new energy-efficient tugs, we have reached another milestone on our way to a green fleet,” says Rob Smeets, Chief Operations Officer of Port of Antwerp-Bruges.

“Our ambition is to be carbon-neutral by 2050 by pursuing various sustainability paths and daring to pioneer innovative technologies. These tugs are a prime example of what our sustainable future should look like.”

“This is a landmark in the adoption of all-electric tugs as mainstream harbor towage solutions,” says Vincent Maes, Damen Area Sales Manager Benelux.

“Port of Antwerp-Bruges’s support of our advanced tug solutions plays an important role in introducing them to the wider market and it is, as always, a pleasure to work with a client who shares Damen’s vision of a sustainable future.”

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges aligns with industry leaders like the Port of Auckland by endorsing the development of low and zero-emission propulsion systems.

Namely, over a year ago New Zealand’s Ports of Auckland welcomed the world’s first full size, ship-handling electric tugboat.

The Damen-built tug named Sparky represents the first Damen RSD-E Tug 2513. It has a 6-meter draft, it is 24.73 long, and has two azimuth thrusters with 3-meter diameter propellers.

Additionally, the boat has a 70-tonne bollard pull (the same as the port’s strongest diesel tug, Hauraki).

There are 80 battery racks holding 2,240 batteries, totaling 2,784 kWh of power. Sparky also has two 1000kW backup generator sets which will only be used in cases of emergency or some fault that is not part of business as usual.

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In March this year, Dutch shipbuilding major Damen inked a partnership agreement with Boluda Towage, part of Spain’s Boluda Corporación Marítima, aimed at bringing zero-emission tugs to Europe.

The duo plans to launch its first zero-emission tug featuring a Damen RSD-E Tug 2513 design that will be powered by methanol. The two companies are currently working on identifying the potential harbour that will be best matched to its operational profile.

Damen is developing the methanol-powered tug as part of its sustainability mission. The shipbuilder has already teamed up with U.S.-based engine manufacturer Caterpillar and the official Cat dealer for the Netherlands Pon Power for the joint development of a series of dual-fuel methanol/diesel-powered tugs.

Damen expects to have methanol-powered vessels series production-ready in 2026.