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Seaspan's all-electric tug recognized for cutting underwater noise pollution

It’s got 7,000 horsepower but produces only a tenth of the noise that a tug with a diesel engine produces
HaiSea Wamis, Seaspan and the Haisla Nation’s all-electric tugboat, arrives in Vancouver harbour on July 8, 2023. | Mike Savage / Seaspan

Seaspan’s all-electric tugboat – the first launched in the world – has earned recognition for the sharp reduction in noise it emits into the underwater environment.

The company announced Thursday that HaiSea Wamis, which was developed in partnership with the Haisla Nation, had received an Underwater Noise Notation from classification agency the American Bureau of Shipping.

To get the recognition, the company carried out two days of sea trials up and down Indian Arm measuring the noise output with hydrophones. The tests showed it would take 10 similar ElectRA 2800 electric tugs running side-by-side to produce the same amount of underwater noise as just one traditional diesel tug.

Underwater noise from marine traffic has been shown to have numerous negative impacts on aquatic life, killing or injuring some species, driving animals out of their habitats, and interfering with their communication, ability to feed, reproduce and avoid predators.

Seaspan launched HaiSea Wamis in 2023. Today it can be seen working in the Vancouver harbour, but later this year it will be put to work in the Douglas Channel helping tankers dock at LNG Canada’s terminal in Kitimat.

It was the Haisla Nation that pushed for the partnership to have the least environmental impact possible, including the use of new tugboats with an electric propulsion system.

“When we formed HaiSea, we had a vision and a dream to design and build one of the greenest tugboat fleets in the world that would serve the Douglas Channel. This notation proves that together with our partners, we have achieved that dream,” said Chief Crystal Smith, elected chief councillor, Haisla Nation. “The HaiSea crew, the majority of whom are Haisla members, will be operating the greenest and quietest tugboat fleet in the world right here in our home waters.”

HaiSea Wamis is powered by six massive banks of 5,300 kilowatt hour Corvus batteries – enough to put out about 7,000 horsepower, but with zero emissions. Two other electric tugs have since joined Seaspan’s fleet – the Wee’git, and the Brave.

The HaiSea partnership hired Vancouver-based Robert Allan Ltd. to design the unique tug and it was built by Turkish shipyard Sanmar.

In a release, naval architect and noise and vibration analyst Giorgio Burella said the recognition bodes well for future of the technological shift happening in the marine industry.

“Robert Allan Ltd. is pleased to have designed and contributed to the success story of how HaiSea now operates one of the most environmentally friendly ships on the West Coast and in North America,” he said. “These results are very encouraging evidence of the potential for battery electric tugs to significantly reduce underwater radiated noise in harbours both at home and abroad.”

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