Svitzer to make 10 tugs carbon neutral

Towage operator Svitzer, part of A.P. Moller – Maersk revealed plans to convert its whole fleet of 10 tugs in London and Medway to be powered by marine biofuel, following a successful pilot.


As explained, replacing marine fuel oil with carbon-neutral biofuel enables Svitzer to offer a new towage solution – Ecotow – to its customers, unlocking about 90% CO2 reduction in Scope 3 emissions from their towage operations.

The company is offering Ecotow both directly in London for customers whose vessels require towage services on the Thames, and for global customers by giving them the opportunity to inset fossil-fuelled towage elsewhere in their value chain. Svitzer achieves this by calculating the emissions impact of towage operations for Ecotow customers and matching this impact with a volume of biofuel to be delivered to the London-based fleet.

Initially, Svitzer’s five tugs serving the Isle of Grain LNG terminal in the Medway had been running entirely on hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) biofuel since 15 November 2021. The move confirms the operational viability as well as the commercial and environmental value of using biofuel in the towage sector.

“We are delighted that the Svitzer fleet servicing the terminal will be running on biofuel. Grain LNG is proud to be working with a partner committed to making the necessary investments to reduce emissions. This is an important step towards achieving carbon neutrality in the sector,” Nicola Duffin, Commercial Director at Grain LNG, commented.

By January 2022, all 10 of Svitzer’s tugs in London will operate using HVO biofuel, expanding the Ecotow offering even further. The decision to scale up biofuel use across the London fleet follows the successful completion of the industry-first biofuel trial onboard Svitzer Intrepid, which has been running on biofuel since September 2021.

“This is an exciting and big step towards the decarbonisation of towage. Ecotow enables us to offer our customers an opportunity to reduce their Scope 3 emissions and their environmental footprint, either by procuring towage services delivered by tugs fuelled with biofuel, or by ‘insetting’ carbon emissions from tug jobs elsewhere against savings generated in London and Medway,” Lise Demant, Managing Director for Svitzer Europe, said.

Svitzer considers HVO a crucial first step in the roadmap towards a carbon-neutral towage sector. Today’s announcement will enable Svitzer to responsibly expand the Ecotow offering to more of Svitzer’s global operations, the company said.

“It is only sensible that we look to scale up the use of biofuel at the right time in line with helping our customers to navigate their decarbonisation trajectories. The transition to wider adoption of alternative fuels in towage will ultimately happen faster if customers are accepting of the technology and understand the cost/benefit balance, so we remain committed to testing solutions that will work for them,” Sven Lumber, Head of Ecotow at Svitzer, added.

“The Ecotow product exclusively uses sustainable second-generation biofuels. These fuels are produced using waste material such as used cooking oil as feedstocks and are certified by ISSC or RSB. Relative to marine diesel, these biofuels reduce carbon emissions by 100% on a tank-to-wake basis and about 90% on a well-to-wake basis.”

Svitzer is also exploring green methanol as a future fuel for its fleet of tugs. Earlier this month, Svitzer signed an agreement with naval architect company Robert Allan for the design of the world’s first fuel cell tug for harbour operations, running on green methanol.

Related Article

The project supports the overall Maersk decarbonization journey. Specifically, the objective is to extract and apply knowledge and operational experience of methanol feasibility from the nearshore small scale tug onto larger ocean-going container vessels.