Dutch shipbuilder Damen, engine manufacturer Caterpillar and its Norway and Netherlands importer Pon Power have signed an MoU to develop methanol-fuelled tugs.

Momentum is building among owners for alternative-fuelled tugs, with both new constructions and retrofits.

Damen, Caterpillar and Pon Power sign the MoU (Pon Cat)

Damen, Caterpillar and Pon Power sign the MoU (Pon Cat)

They look to designers, shipyards and component manufacturers to satisfy increasing demands for vessels that meet emissions standards, and the agreement sees Damen Shipyards and Caterpillar developing the methanol fuel route.

Damen sees this as presenting another ‘green’ option for customers alongside its all-electric tug option, suitably represented by the RSD-E Tug 2513 Sparky delivered recently to Ports of Auckland, New Zealand and earning the ITS Tug of the Year award 2022.

The MoU involves joint development of a series of dual-fuel methanol/diesel-powered tugs, Damen saying its long-term strategy is to offer a full range of sustainable tugs featuring both zero emission electric and carbon neutral methanol-fuelled vessels.

The methanol-ready CAT 3500E series dual-fuel pilot engines will be delivered to Damen by Pon Power in 2024, when the process of integration and testing will begin, described as being a “complex undertaking” involving integrating the engines with all aspects of the ship’s control, monitoring, ventilation and other systems.

The process will include close cooperation with classification societies and the aim is to have methanol-fuelled vessels ready for series production in 2026.

Damen’s two option strategy will see fully-electric tugs available in 40, 60 and 80 tonne bollard pull versions with methanol-fuelled tugs offering a slightly more powerful range of 60, 80 and 100 tonnes.

Electrically powered tugs are considered an option for zero emission operations where low-cost electricity can be easily accessed between assignments.

As methanol has a greater energy density than batteries, this route delivers increased energy storage capacity suited for longer duration operations while remaining CO2 neutral. All the vessels will be fitted with a standard Emissions Reduction System developed and delivered by Damen Sustainable Solutions B.V.

Brad Johnson, Vice President and General Manager, Caterpillar Marine describes the collaboration as: “… bringing together immeasurable expertise that allows us to learn together and innovate to address the great challenge of the energy transition”, adding that while it is indeed an exciting technical challenge to tackle, it most importantly fosters the industry’s goal to reach sustainable, low carbon operations.