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B.C. liquefied natural gas project helping to decarbonize West Coast tug and barge sector

First Nations company servicing Kitimat LNG export terminal another step closer to deploying the world’s first fleet of electric tugs in B.C.
Members of the Haisla Nation joined representatives from Seaspan, HaiSea Marine and LNG Canada for the naming ceremony of HaiSea’s electric tug fleet at Sanmar Shipyards in Istanbul, Turkey

The liquefied natural gas set to flow through LNG Canada’s Kitimat export terminal has accelerated the greening of West Coast tug and barge operations.

That zero-carbon port initiative has also been helped by B.C's. expertise in tug design and marine battery technology.

HaiSea Marine has tapped the expertise of both on its way to launching the world’s first fleet of electric harbour tugboats. That launch moved another step closer on March 9 with the official naming and ceremonial blessing of the HaiSea fleet in Istanbul, Turkey.

HaiSea, which is majority owned by the Haisla Nation in partnership with Seaspan ULC, has the contract to service LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas export terminal in Kitimat. The terminal is scheduled to start exporting LNG to Asia in 2025.

HaiSea’s tug fleet is being built by Turkey’s Sanmar Shipyards. It will include three electric harbour tugs and two larger dual-fuel (LNG-marine diesel) escort tugs.

The ships were designed by Vancouver’s Robert Allan Ltd. naval architecture firm; the marine electric technology for the harbour tugs was provided by Corvus Energy, which was founded in 2009 in Richmond, but moved its corporate head offices to Bergen, Norway, in 2019.

“There are other electric tugs out there,” said Jordan Pechie, HaiSea’s director of operations, “but they’re hybrid electric.”

HaiSea estimates that its fleet will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 10,000 tonnes annually compared with marine diesel alternatives.

Pechie said the ElectRA 2800 tugs, which will have a transit running time of 10 hours, will be more powerful than traditional harbour tugs of comparable size.

He added that they will also be “the quietest vessels on the coast.”

Pechie declined to provide cost details for the electric tugs and added that Kitimat harbour tugs were mission-specific designed so a cost comparison with their diesel counterparts would not be “apples to apples.’

“Nobody has ever done a full battery solution. So, it’s difficult to compare.”

He added that the first of the new electric tugs are scheduled to arrive in B.C. in June.

But HaiSea is not the only tug and barge operation on B.C.’s West Coast that will have electric tugs in their fleet.

Last October, SAAM Towage finalized an agreement with Teck Resources (TSX-TECK.B) and Neptune Terminals that will allow SAAM to deploy its first two electric tugs at the coal terminal in Vancouver harbour.

Under the agreement, SAAM’s two ElectRA 2300 tugs will start operations in the second half of this year.

SAAM Towage is a subsidiary of SAAM, a Chilean multinational port terminals, towage and logistics company.

SAAM Towage estimates that its electric tugs will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,400 tonnes annually when they are operating at full capacity.

The ElectRA 2300s are also designed by Robert Allan Ltd.

HaiSea’s March 9 tug naming ceremony at the Sanmar Shipyards was attended by representatives of HaiSea, the Haisla Nation, Seaspan and LNG Canada.

In press release from the ceremony in Turkey, Haisla Chief Coun. Crystal Smith said, “HaiSea Wee’git, HaiSea Wamis and HaiSea Brave were named by Haisla members and carry special meaning for our people, history and territory. From the very beginning, this joint venture was designed to ensure our members and neighbours would have access to employment opportunities, and today we are closer to realizing those benefits.”

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