Government Unveils Groundbreaking Green Tug Transition Programme: Revolutionizing Port Operations in India
The Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways (MoPSW) is embarking on a significant initiative to make port operations in India more environmentally friendly. They have introduced a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) outlining a plan for the gradual replacement of existing diesel-powered tugs with zero-emission tugs, all of which will be locally built. The aim is to enhance the sustainability of operations at state-owned ports.
This initiative falls under the Green Tug Transition Programme (GTTP), and the Ministry has set a comprehensive five-phase timeline, concluding in 2047. The objective is for all 12 state-owned ports to have their entire tug fleet compliant with the GTTP by the end of this timeline.
In the initial phase, which extends to 2027, four major ports—Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority, Deendayal Port Authority, Paradip Port Authority, and V O Chidambaranar Port Authority—will each acquire two new green tugs powered by batteries. Following this, between 2027 and 2030, at least half of the tugs operating in these ports should be green tugs. Simultaneously, a minimum of 25 percent of tug fleets in other major ports under MoPSW should also comply with the GTTP. This phase might also involve exploring alternative green fuels such as methanol and hydrogen, alongside battery electric propulsion.
As the program progresses into its third phase (2030-2035), all ports under MoPSW should ensure that at least half of their tug fleet adheres to the GTTP. The subsequent phases aim for even higher compliance, with the fourth phase (2035-2040) targeting 75 percent and the fifth phase (2040-2047) mandating 100 percent compliance for all 12 major ports.
To facilitate the implementation of standardized designs and specifications for the green tugs, the Ministry, through the Indian Ports Association (IPA), will release Approved Standard Tug Design Specifications – Green Tug Transition Programme (ASTDS-GTTP). These specifications will be tailored for each phase of the program. The Standing Specifications Committee (SSC), established by the Ministry in 2020, is responsible for developing these standardized specifications, ensuring that they align with the GTTP requirements.
Ports have the flexibility to either purchase or charter tugs compliant with ASTDS-GTTP for a minimum of 15 years. The charter period will not be prematurely terminated solely for transitioning to subsequent phases of the GTTP. Tugs constructed in earlier phases, meeting the ASTDS-GTTP specifications, can be utilized in subsequent phases. However, new tugs initiated in a specific GTTP phase must adhere to the corresponding specifications.
Crucially, the tugs complying with ASTDS-GTTP must be built in Indian shipyards. The Ministry is offering financial support of 30 percent for the construction of these green tugs, aiming to incentivize the shift toward environmentally friendly practices.
While the government’s initiative has been commended for promoting green shipbuilding in India, some tug owners and operators express concerns. They highlight the recent Atmanirbhar Bharat policy, which mandated the procurement of tugs built in Indian shipyards. Now, with the emphasis on green tugs, there is uncertainty about the fate of normal tugs under construction. The Ministry’s suggestion to market these normal tugs outside is met with skepticism, given the higher cost of tugs built in Indian yards compared to overseas yards.
Despite these concerns, ports under the Ministry’s control must adhere to the GTTP targets. For any tug demand beyond the GTTP targets, the SOP for charter/procurement of tugs under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, issued in 2020, can be invoked. This ensures a balance between green initiatives and practical considerations.
The global push towards carbon neutrality and the International Maritime Organization’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 are emphasized in the SOP. The Maritime India Vision 2030, outlining key interventions for a sustainable and green maritime sector, further supports these initiatives. Harbor tugs, being integral to port operations, present a significant opportunity for emission reduction, given their unique operating profile.
Tugs operate at high power for a brief duration, with the majority of their time spent in low-power activities near the port. This makes them ideal candidates for adopting green solutions like electric propulsion systems and alternative fuels. The SOP underscores the importance of progressively replacing diesel-powered tugs with zero-emission alternatives to green port operations effectively.
To facilitate the transition, tenders for ASTDS-GTTP compliant tugs will have a minimum bidding time of 12 weeks. In case bidders cannot provide Indian-built tugs complying with ASTDS-GTTP, they can offer alternate tugs meeting operational requirements, with the condition to substitute them with Indian-built tugs within 24 months from the charter’s commencement.
The Ministry emphasizes that defaulting parties will face penalties and be barred from participating in further tenders for chartering any type of vessel for all ports under MoPSW. This strict approach underscores the government’s commitment to the success of the Green Tug Transition Programme and its broader environmental goals.
In conclusion, the Ministry’s SOP outlines a comprehensive plan to transition India’s state-owned ports to greener operations by progressively replacing diesel-powered tugs with zero-emission alternatives. The phased approach, standardized specifications, and financial incentives demonstrate a commitment to balancing environmental concerns with practical challenges. While concerns from tug owners/operators highlight potential hurdles, the Ministry’s emphasis on compliance and penalties underscores its determination to achieve a sustainable and green maritime sector in India.