Zeebrugge welcomes fleet of green tugboats

Sustainability and efficiency were at the top of the list in the concession agreement that the Port of Zeebrugge concluded with tugboat company Boluda Towage Europe in September 2020. The renewed partnership includes the arrival of two brand-new tugboats, all of which satisfy the highest emission standards, in Zeebrugge. These strict emission requirements are in line with the Clean Port Strategy, which is of paramount importance to the Port of Zeebrugge.

These new boats are manned by expert crew members who know the waters around Zeebrugge like the back of their hands, since a modern port must be able to count on an efficient fleet of tugboats to ensure that shipping can proceed safely at all times.


The contract was signed on 18 September 2020 and ensures that the familiar tugboats will continue to operate in the Port of Zeebrugge for the next five years. Boluda is a leading maritime company, with more than 300 tugboats in 75 ports worldwide. Boluda Corporación Marítima was founded in Spain in 1837 and is still a family-owned and operated business.

Brand-new tugboats

On Saturday 7 December, a grey, foggy morning was brightened up by the arrival of two brand-new tugboats: VB Bolero and VB Rumba. CEO of the Port of Zeebrugge Tom Hautekiet, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Port of Zeebrugge Dirk De fauw and CEO of Boluda Towage Europe Geert Vandecappelle gathered on the seventh floor of the ABC building to watch the balletic performance given by two new ships as they sailed into the port. Extremely agile, they elegantly turned pirouettes under the spray of mist exuded by their on-board fire-fighting systems.


VB Bolero and VB Rumba were built at one of the Damen Shipyards in Vietnam. The tugs made the long journey to Rotterdam as deck cargo on board a heavy-lift vessel, sailing from Rotterdam under their own power to their final destination, Zeebrugge.


Both tugs are ASD-type vessels, or "Azimuth Stern Drive". In concrete terms, these are two propeller units that are suspended beneath the hull and can turn around their vertical axis by 360 degrees. This ensures an exceptionally high degree of manoeuvrability.


The two new ships meet the requirements imposed by Zeebrugge with regard to sustainability perfectly and comply with the most recent IMO Tier-III emission standards (IMO = International Maritime Organisation).

Environmentally friendly superstructure

The Tier-III requirements currently apply only to newly built vessels. Boluda takes this one step further by converting existing tugs to enable them to exceed the highest environmental standards. The tugboats Union Koala and Union Panda had already been adapted to these standards. The entire Zeebrugge fleet will be Tier-III certified within the next two years. The conversion is being carried out in conjunction with the Ghent engine factory Anglo Belgian Corporation and Flanders Ship Repair.

Cold ironing

To anyone driving past the old lock in Zeebrugge, the image of the tugboats moored there is a familiar sight. In the past, on-board generators were used to provide ships with the necessary electricity. This is no longer necessary because the tugboats are now connected to shore power. This is called "cold ironing", shore-to-ship power (SSP) or alternative maritime power (AMP). The term cold ironing refers to the cooling down of the iron-coal engines that were used to fuel ships many years ago. So, once a ship is at berth, the plug goes in and the engines can be turned off. This is also part of Zeebrugge's "Clean Port" sustainability strategy.

Tier-III units with the lowest possible emission standards. That is a shining example for all ports.

Steve DerudderCaptain & Tow Master

What does the Captain say?

Captain Steve Derudder is delighted with the arrival of the new tugs. "Before this, I was the captain of the Tiger, which is now operational in Rotterdam. It is a pleasure to operate the new tugboat. She is so agile! She responds exactly as you want."


Steve Derudder is also Tow Master. This is the captain who is in charge when several tugs are deployed at the same time. "You can need up to five tugs for an LNG ship, which is impressive. You cannot permit anything to go wrong." He is very satisfied with the quality and features of the new tugs. "We can also be proud that we have Tier-III units with the lowest possible emission standards. That is a shining example for all ports," he concludes with satisfaction.

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