Home' Work Boat World : Work Boat World Feb 2017 Contents Is there a place for a battery powered workboat? My thinking
for this question comes from observing two particular types of
vessels and why I think they're suitable for "electrification".
With the advances in battery power thanks to the efforts of
Tesla Motors amongst other manufacturers, other industries are
able to leverage the investments that have been made for their
The first type of vessel that I think could be an early adopter for
going all electric is the fish farm work boat. Whether they are
farming fin fish or shell fish, many operations rely on sub-fifteen-
metre LOA workboats with a flat, wide work deck and generally a
small wheelhouse. Their power requirements are generally modest
for their size and the engines are normally operating only at the
start and end of shift with only minimal engine use to move
between pens or cages during the day. The amount of kilowatt
hours of power expended by these craft in a day could easily be
catered for by an appropriately sized, mass produced battery.
Although a battery pack can made into any shape, looking at
the pictures of the Oystercatcher II and a Tesla battery back, they
almost seem made for each other. It doesn't take a large stretch of
the imagination to see a battery pack being built low into the hull
of such a craft where it would aid in vessel stability as opposed to
the sacrifices in design that are made to put a heavy outboard or
two above water level at the stern.
The vessel would benefit from reduced noise under operation,
which if someone could get the funding to investigate further
would, I'm sure, result in happier fish in addition to happier crew.
Once the vessel is tied in its berth it would be a matter of plugging
in a power cable with an overnight charge being more than
sufficient to refill the batteries.
The large battery would also be useful for powering an
appropriately sized deck crane without the need for a separate
genset, which is often needed on outboard powered craft that are
unable to produce sufficient ekW from their propulsion system.
The other area where I think that battery power could be
extremely useful is in free fall lifeboats. Why? Because battery
powered devices are fantastic for things that are going to be left
unattended with minimal maintenance for potentially years on
end and still be expected to operate flawlessly when needed.
A properly maintained lifeboat, and I do mean properly
maintained, will need to be serviced regularly and inspected even
more so. Think of all the parts of a diesel engine that can and will
deteriorate due to lack of use. Lubricants and seals are the primary
ones along with water build-up in the diesel tank. Corrosion is not
uncommon inside the boat, especially if dehumidifiers aren't
checked on a regular basis.
A battery powered system however has only two components,
the motor and the battery, both of which are comparatively
maintenance free compared to a diesel engine. The sheer number
of moving parts that are eliminated will also result in reduced
A battery powered vessel, connected to the host ship's electrical
system via a quick-detach power cable will be able to monitor its
own maintenance requirements, alerting the owner to any
problems. If the lifeboat were to be equipped with a satellite
communication system, or even a traditional mobile phone
system, it would be able to send equipment health updates to the
manufacturer and/or the owner. Depending upon how serious the
need for action on the alert, it could be sent immediately by
satellite or it could wait until a lower cost cellular connection is
made when it next passes a coastline.
Information on battery health, current flows, which can
indicate corrosion of wires, humidity and numerous other sensors
can all be assessed along with reminders on inspections of water
and stores. A sensor on the lifeboat hatch could even tell if
someone is stowing away or pilfering the survival rations.
The pessimist will look at the battery powered lifeboat and
point out that an owner that is concerned about crew safety will
already have appropriate maintenance plans in place, and will
ensure that these plans are implemented and strictly followed
whereas the owner who places maintenance, and therefore crew
safety, as a lower priority is unlikely to spend the money required
to replace old, inefficient and unreliable lifeboats with the battery
powered variety. This may indeed be true however the previously
mentioned cost savings, as battery prices drop, are sure to reach a
point where a responsible, yet pennywise owner will observe the
benefits in switching.
Do you think battery powered boats will make an appearance
anytime soon? Let me know your thoughts.
Any comments, or perhaps you've come across something interesting?
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Cutting-edge developments affecting the work boat world, By ANDREW BAIRD
The Bow Wave
A typical free fall lifeboat
The battery pack and motor from a Tesla electric car
Oystercatcher II, a typical fish farm workboat
WORK BOAT WORLD February 2017 11
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