For many islands, the port is a focal point of economic activity and tourism as well as a symbolic point of arrival and departure.
That makes ports a natural focus for sustainability initiatives with the goal of both reducing local pollution and showcasing an eco-friendly attitude to visitors, as has been shown in Malta’s eco-mobility approach.
One area that technology providers are looking into now are pilot boats, which have the task of ferrying the pilots who guide ships into and out of port facilities around the world. In many cases, these vessels make only short, fast trips and spend longer periods idle at dock.
Canadian boat company Robert Allan has developed a new all-electric pilot boat aimed exactly at this type of service where the journey out to the ship is 5 nautical miles or less.
The RAlly 1600-E is an aluminium boat with an electric twin-screw drivetrain and a bank of batteries that are recharged from shore power. Twin small auxiliary generators provide “get home” and range extension capability, but are normally not used.
Pilot boats typically run at or near top speed with the pilot on board, then loiter for some time, and may return at a more efficient medium speed. In this mixed-use scenario with a 5-nautical-mile run, the RAlly 1600-E can complete a full operation on batteries with 30% of nominal capacity to spare.
According to Robert Allan, some recent RFPs for pilot boats require noise levels of 65 dB or lower in the occupied spaces. This is almost impossible to achieve in a small, fast boat powered by ICE engines, but electric drive makes it feasible. The company also notes that the added capital cost of the electrical propulsion system is offset by the savings on fuel and maintenance costs.