Battery power at Pacific Marine Expo

While attending Pacific Marine Expo last week in Seattle, several things caught my eye. One was the new fast response fireboat that SAFE Boats International built for the New York City Fire Department. The boat was in the water near the show, so I got a chance to see it in action as well as get on board.

Called the Bravest, this is truly an impressive vessel. At 64’, it’s the largest boat built yet by SAFE. Below its open stern deck are three 1,000-hp Caterpillar engines and one 900-hp Iveco dedicated pump engine. The center propulsion engine can also be clutched into the pump for a total output of about 7,000 gpm.

As you can imagine, the engine “room” (accessible only by lifting deck plates) is packed. So packed that I wondered how boats like this will be able to accommodate the engine aftertreatment equipment that is sure to come. Last year, I wrote a story about the Dutch pilot boats built by Kvichak Marine with full-blown aftertreatment systems that hog a lot of engine room space.

Bruce-11-22-10-2The answer may be battery technology, which was the subject at one of PME’s conference sessions. Brent Perry, CEO of Corvus Energy in British Columbia, described developments in lithium ion battery (LIB) technology that apply specifically to marine applications. The news is very promising, especially for boats that have highly variable duty cycles like harbor tugs and pilot boats. Fast response fireboats would also fit this category. With LIBs, these boats may be able to run almost entirely on battery power for much of their operations. Or batteries could power the firefighting pumps instead of a dedicated engine. There are lots of mix-and-match options.

The real beauty of battery power is that is can save tremendous amounts of fuel, which eliminates tremendous amounts of emissions.

Perry will also be bringing his battery power message to the International WorkBoat Show next week in New Orleans. Be sure to catch his session on Friday, Dec. 3, at 11:45 a.m. Visit for more information.

About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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