Saturday, January 31, 2009

World's First Hybrid Tugboat

Thick, squat and powerful, tugboats are the pint-sized strongmen of the maritime industry.

But, despite their stature, they tend to be big polluters, spewing heavy clouds of diesel soot into the sky as they push and pull massive freight ships into position.

Their reputation as grimy workhorses, however, may be changing with the recent development of a diesel-electric hybrid tug - the Carolyn Dorothy - by Foss Maritime Co. The quiet, 78-foot tug carries all the punch of its counterparts without the environmental price tag.

"Tugboats spend most of their time sitting around idling, and while they're idling, they're sending diesel (soot) into the air," said Foss engineer Jerry Allen during a visit to the boat's engine room. "This tug doesn't consume diesel during down time, so you're having no (ecological) impact there. And it's emitting much less during routine operations."

Externally, the $9 million Carolyn Dorothy - named after a Foss executive's wife - looks like any other tug. But unlike its rivals, it emits roughly half the emissions, including significantly less diesel particulates, which can lodge in workers' lungs and cause cancer.

And because it can plug into an electrical outlet while docked, operators are able to recharge the ship's 126 12-volt batteries during down time. Built during the past year at Foss' Rainier, Ore., shipyard, the Carolyn Dorothy is the source of much hope and pride among port authorities in Long Beach and Los Angeles, who together kicked in $1.3 million to fund its development.

"This proves the technology works in this application," said the Port of Long Beach Harbor Commissioner. "We think it serves as a template for future (green) growth."

Foss has agreed to operate the tug exclusively in Long Beach-Los Angeles through 2013.


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