Legendary Passenger Vessels Convert to Torqeedo Electric Power

Source: Torqeedo

Published Jul 30, 2019 6:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Heligoland, and the islet of Düne, two small islands 65 kilometers off the northern coast of Germany, are famous for natural beauty, spectacular red cliffs, bathing beaches, sea birds and a unique maritime history.

Traditional handcrafted oak boats called börteboote, (boarding boats), have been used in Heligoland for many years to transport visitors arriving on large ships to the harbor. Now, the municipality of Heligoland has converted the first boat for the future: In the Hatecke boatyard on the Lower Elbe, the old diesel engine of the Börteboot, dubbed "Pirat", was replaced by a clean, quiet Torqeedo Deep Blue 50i electric motor with lithium-ion batteries.

Heligoland, historically an exclusive seaside spa and resort for upper-class Europeans, was once claimed by Denmark, then England. In 1890, England traded Heligoland to Germany in exchange for Zanzibar. As Germany’s only offshore territory and the birthplace of its national anthem, the islands hold a cherished position in the country’s culture and the hearts of the German people. In the 21st century, it is a holiday island, a location for top marine research, and a base for offshore wind services.

Every day, large passenger ships arrive at the only German offshore island from the mainland. The boarding boats each carry up to 50 passengers from the ship to the docks, called the Helgolander Landungsbrücken, as is tradition since time immemorial. In 2018, the Heligoland Boat Exchange Association, together with the Heligoland Landing Service, achieved recognition of the "Heligoland börteboote as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage" - an important step towards UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage.

Torqeedo engineers worked closely with a local shipyard owned by Rainer Hatecke, a fifth-generation boat builder and operator, and chairman of the Association for the Preservation of Heligoland Börteboote, to design and install the integrated battery-powered electric drive. The high-tech, 50 kW Torqeedo system provides a modern, complete prop-to-helm solution, including a 40 kWh battery with automotive technology from BMW and touchscreen display for the boat operator. The fleet's first electric börteboot will be presented to the public on the 10th of August during the 65th annual börteboot regatta.

"Börteboote have been a tradition on Heligoland for centuries. With the installation of the electric drives, we advance this tradition into the future. The new 'Pirat' will noticeably improve the passenger experience and set an example for environmental conservation and climate protection in the tourism industry," said Mayor Jörg Singer.

Hatecke said the old diesel engines were so loud people had to yell to be heard on the open boat. Now they glide silently through the water with no diesel fumes on deck. He also noted that the extra torque provided by the Torqeedo electric drive helps the boat punch effortlessly through the high North Sea waves. "Together with my shipyard crew we have built a real 'e-pirate' for Heligoland", says Rainer Hatecke.  

Heligoland remains a popular destination for day trips with a growing number of overnight guests, but the boat fleet has dwindled as new passenger ships with shallower drafts are able to directly access the docks and jetty. Today there are only 11 börteboote still in service. Mr. Hatecke envisions rebuilding the börteboote fleet by using the new, emission-free vessels for tours, sightseeing, birdwatching and passenger transport between the Heligoland islands as well as their traditional boarding duties. Additional battery capacity can easily be added to the modular Deep Blue system if required for longer trips in the future.

“Visitors will continue to experience the cultural history of Heligoland while protecting the natural resources that bring thousands of visitors to the islands every year,” said Dr. Christoph Ballin, co-founder and CEO of Torqeedo. “Repowering this iconic fleet with high-tech, emission-free Torqeedo electric drives will serve as a model for maintaining tradition through innovation.”

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