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E-Tugboat Highlights Port’s Electrification Push

SPECIAL DISTRICTS: San Diego First in Nation to Use Crowly eWolf

There’s a lot of buzz going on with the Port of San Diego. The 61-year-old special district that oversees 34 miles along the San Diego Bay and spanning five cities continues the push toward electrification.

Earlier this month, the Port announced it would be the home to the nation’s first zero-emissions tugboat.

The all-electric eWolf, made by Florida-based Crowley, will be chugging out to the bay sometime next spring, ready to guide ships in and around the harbor, and tow them when necessary. Crowley’s eWolf will join its two diesel sister tugboats, Tioga and Scout, longtime residents in San Diego Bay.

Electrification Investments

In just the last few years, the Port has invested $63 million on electrification and emissions reduction technologies, including shore power, an all-electrical dual mobile harbor crane system, fleet electrification of Port vehicles, a vessel air emissions capture and control system and clean trucks corridor deployment.

Rafael Castellanos
Commissioner
Port of San Diego

“Putting that into context, our annual budget is about $200 million,” said Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos. “We think of that as an investment. We don’t collect any tax money, so this is all from our operations, using state grants and leveraging our money.

“We do want to increase our maritime business and be good neighbors, increasing opportunities for jobs that are clean, doing things in respectful and responsible ways. We want to continue to be pioneers in technology. This is where we want to be headed in the world.”

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, the global shipping industry transports about 90% of world trade and accounts for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, translating to about 940 million tons of CO2 annually.

E-Tug Powered by Microgrid

Crowley, which provides logistics, marine and energy solutions for commercial and government customers, broke ground at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal earlier this month on a shoreside microgrid charging station in anticipation of the eWolf.

Matt Jackson
VP of Advanced Energy
Crowley

The facility will provide clean energy through solar and electric power. Instead of using diesel-fueled on-board engines and fossil fuels for their needs when docked, ships using shore power can tap into electricity on land for their lighting, pumping, communications and refrigeration needs.

Operating at off-peak hours, the shoreside station will reduce the loads on the local energy grid. Each energy container on the microgrid will house battery modules with storage capacity of almost 1.5 MWh, for a total capacity of 2,990 kW.

Matt Jackson, vice president of advanced energy for Crowley, said the electric tug will reduce 3,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide versus a conventional tug, and save 31,000 gallons of diesel per year.

“Together, with the Port of San Diego, partners and the community, we are creating a blueprint for ports of the future, fostering a new era of sustainable maritime operations with advanced energy solutions that help our neighborhoods breathe easier and decarbonization the planet,” Jackson said.

More Port E-Projects

The Port of San Diego first installed a shore power outlet at its cruise terminal area in 2010; in January of this year, the Port expanded that reach so that two cruise vessels could plug in to the grid at the same time.

According to the Port, 70% of passenger vessel and refrigerated cargo fleets visiting the Port of San Diego are using cleaner electricity instead of running their diesel engines while at berth.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to improve the air quality in the region and help San Diego County meet state-mandated goals is something the Port has been focused on for more than a decade, said Castellanos, starting with its Climate Action Plan that dates back to 2013.

In 2021, Castellanos said, the Port approved the Maritime Clean Air Strategy, a policy document that lays out strategies to transition its vehicles to electric from diesel to electric by 2030 – five years before the state of California requires it to do so.

In National City, the Port’s $11.5 million Marine Exhaust Treatment System (METS) will start operating in late 2024 controlling and capturing cargo vessel emissions with bonnet system. For cargo vessels not equipped to plug into shore power, METS places a bonnet over the vessel’s smokestack while docked, capturing and treating exhaust. Similar technologies are reportedly able to remove more than 95% of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide.

This past April, Port of San Diego leaders approved an $8.5 million electrification project that will curb pollution from diesel-driven cargo ships docked in National City, installing shore power at the National City Marine Terminal.

The Port is also working with the military on electrification projects. Last September, Navy Region Southwest and the Port of San Diego formed a partnership that gives the U.S. Navy access to participate in California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard market.

Port of San Diego

FOUNDED: 1962
ACTING CEO: Randa Coniglio
HEADQUARTERS: Pacific Highway, San Diego
BUSINESS: Special District
BUDGET: $200 million
EMPLOYEES: 550
WEBSITE: portofsandiego.org
CONTACT: 619-686-6200
SOCIAL IMPACT: The Port is working to improve air quality in local communities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region and has enrolled in Green Marine, North America’s largest voluntary environmental certification program for the maritime industry.
NOTABLE: The Port of San Diego’s member cities are Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City and San Diego. Its jurisdiction includes two maritime cargo terminals, two cruise ship terminals, nearly two dozen public parks, the Harbor Police Department and the leases of tenant and subtenant businesses around San Diego Bay — including about 20 hotels and 75 restaurants, several specialty retail centers, plus museums and bay tour businesses.

An artist’s rendering of the charging station to be used with the Port of San Diego’s electric tugboats. The station, which relies on solar power, will be among the first of its kind in the United States. Rendering courtesy of Crowley
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