Case Study

Sparky - Empowering a Fully Electric Full-sized Tugboat

29 Nov 2023

5 min read

In 2022, Damen, one of the biggest privately owned shipyards in the world, introduced the first fully electric tugboat in their portfolio, the RSD-E Tug 2513, aka Sparky. ComAp was honoured to develop the new AC/DC Power Management System (PMS) for this revolutionary harbour tug. A system that controls 2,240 batteries, with a total of 2,784 kWh output, with which the tug can manoeuvre vessels to berth safely at the Ports of Auckland in New Zealand at up to 70 tonnes of bollard pull. This smartly orchestrated tugboat received worldwide recognition; it was listed on TIME’s Best Inventions of 2022, was awarded the ITS Tug of the Year Award 2022 and was nominated for the 2023 Ship of the Year Award. 

This project stands out for its innovative integration of both AC and DC systems on board the vessel, powering all electric consumers, with the electric thrusters being the most significant. However, it is not just the technical aspects that make this project remarkable. The global collaboration spanning from ComAp's headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, to Damen's headquarters in Gorinchem, The Netherlands, and their Damen Song Cam shipyard in Vietnam, where Sparky was constructed, adds another layer of uniqueness. Above all, the heart of Sparky's operations lies in New Zealand's Ports of Auckland, making this project truly international in scope.

From her initial trials to the present day, Sparky has demonstrated exceptional reliability and performance. Capable of executing two or three berthing operations within a single charging cycle, she can then be recharged in less than two hours using the fast-charging mode and be ready for another berthing set again. With her electric-only operation, Sparky saves 465 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, all while operating at a third of the costs of a comparable diesel tug.  

ComAp´s DC System gives the commissioning teams an extensive advantage over other solutions on the market that are usually largely PLC-based. “PLC logic is very demanding for development, which takes precious time of the engineering team. That´s why we see a great need for the standardisation of such a solution to save money on the installation and commissioning for our customers and simplify the work for the crew members of the vessels,” adds Jaroslav Juriga, Marine Segment Manager at ComAp.

What are the main advantages of ComAp´s DC Power Management?

  • Black-out prevention
  • Load sharing between energy sources
  • Prioritisation of energy sources
  • Heavy consumer management, including its power limitation
  • DC Voltage Match
  • Safety switching of power sources

Sparky also has two backup generators in case a problem occurs and the energy is insufficient, but this scenario has not been needed yet. Sparky´s DC Power Management controls eight battery racks, two backup diesel gen-sets with active front end and two DC shore fast chargers. Additionally, there are two bidirectional microgrid units and one AC shore connection also managed by ComAp´s PMS.

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