The jury of the KNVTS Ship of the Year Award 2023 has nominated three ships for the “Ship of the Year Award 2023”. They are Damen-built electric tug Sparky, the sailing freighter Canopée built by Neptune Marine and the E-Pusher 1 designed and built by Padmos.

The ship that wins the prestigious award is literally thé figurehead of Dutch shipbuilding. The award will be presented at the Maritime Awards Gala on 6 November at Ahoy in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Other awards presented at this event are the Maritime Achievement Award, the Maritime Innovation Award, the Maritime Talent Award and the Maritime Security Award.

Ships that qualify for the KNVTS Ship of the Year 2023 must – especially with regard to innovative aspects – have been developed in the Netherlands, have preferably been built (for at least a large part) in the Netherlands and must have been delivered between 1 May 2021 and 30 April 2022. The jury will assess the submitted ships against the criteria Design, Economy, Sustainability and Environment, Safety and Construction Process.

Also read: Superyacht Viva lands Feadship KNVTS Ship of the Year Award


Damen Shipyards itself took the initiative to develop and build the Sparky. The Ports of Auckland presented itself as a customer. The requirements for the vessel were high. The tug had to be fully emission-free with a minimum of two assists for docking and mooring per day. The minimum bollard pull had to be 70 tonnes.

An all-electric propulsion system was chosen, using LTO (Lithium Titanate Oxide) rechargeable batteries as energy source. The applied battery comprises a total of 2240 modules with a combined capacity of 2782 kWh. The battery can be fully charged in one and a half to two hours via two fast charging stations on shore, making it possible to fully recharge between two assists.

The starboard and port side propulsion systems are completely separate, including the associated switchboards, to increase system redundancy. For added safety, the battery bank is divided into four completely separate rooms.

RSD-E Tug 2513 Sparky

Given the vessel’s dimensions, LOA 24.73 metres and width 13.13 metres, the choice of electric propulsion was a challenge. In addition to the extensive electrical installations, two diesel generators, each with a capacity of 940 ekW, had to be installed for backup in emergencies and during extended standby time.

Besides fulfilling Ports of Auckland’s requirements, the design took into account flexibility in the system, so that in subsequent builds of this ship type, the propulsion system can be easily scaled up or down. This makes the concept very suitable for series construction.

Meanwhile, six tugs of this type are being built at a Damen yard in Vietnam. To ensure that all installations will work properly during commissioning, hardware-in-loop (HIL) tests have been carried out in the Netherlands on the main systems.

The Sparky has been sailing under the New Zealand flag in the port of Auckland since July 2022.

Also read: Damen delivers its first all-electric tug Sparky to Ports of Auckland


The Canopée is an open top RoRo vessel designed to carry components and fuel for Ariane rockets from France to French Guiana. The vessel has an overall length of 121 metres, a beam of 22 metres, a design draught of 4.3 metres and a design speed of 16.5 knots. Neptune Marine built the vessel.

The ship replaces two 115 x 20-metre vessels currently performing the same tasks and, partly as a result, must meet a multitude of sometimes conflicting requirements within very limited main dimensions, leading to a complex design challenge.

Because the vessel has to navigate up a river in French Guiana, the maximum draught is only 3.8 metres. The light, bulky cargo to be carried also requires a lot of deck area within limited main dimensions. This results in a bulky, wide, but shallow vessel. However, the cargo requires low acceleration while the intended sailing schedule requires high speed.

To achieve the intended speed in an efficient manner, a unique hull shape was developed and the vessel is equipped with auxiliary propulsion by means of four Oceanwings wingsails, which, based on a sailing schedule of one roundtrip per month during the crossing, should yield fuel savings of some eighteen per cent.

It is a twin-screw vessel with a flat bottom-shaped stern. Instead of traditional shaft lines with outriggers, a hull shape with two nacelles was chosen. These are asymmetrical and therefore improve the wake field, give course stability when sailing, increase deplacement and provide space for the placement of the propulsion train which benefits the length of the bilge.

Also read: Canopée fitted with Oceanwings

E-Pusher 1

The E-pusher Type M is the first in a series of modular and scalable electrically powered pushboats, a very innovative concept which shows a different approach to sustainability in inland navigation. Padmos was commissioned to make the entire design of the first one and also build it.

The design is highly modular, allowing parts to be produced completely in parallel and then assembled. The overall production process is thus accelerated, more manageable and more affordable. An additional advantage is that the performance and functionalities of the pushers can also be easily adapted to changing applications or specifications, for instance by changing energy sources.

The combination of a polyethylene float with a steel frame and electric propulsion is unprecedented in shipbuilding. The HDPE float makes the design much lighter, giving the vessel a lower displacement and draught, resulting in lower energy consumption when sailing free (without barges) and more suitable for lower water levels.

E-Pusher Erasmus Bridge_KOTUG

Moreover, within the same hull volume, this material has a significantly lower CO2 footprint during construction. An additional advantage is that no antifouling needs to be applied. To ensure leak stability of the vessel, each HDPE module is made from three compartments so that the six floats form a total of eighteen compartments.

The HDPE modules only provide buoyancy, the strength is provided by the steel frame, on which the electric propellers, battery container and accommodation module are placed. The battery container is equipped with solar panels and can be charged via two normal 125A AC plugs, but can also be exchanged if a shore facility with container crane is available.

The E-Pusher 1 is one hundred per cent electric, but its modular concept gives it the unique ability to choose the most optimal energy source on the route, ranging from fossil, hybrid and all-electric power, to hydrogen.

Also read: VIDEO: Zero-emission E-Pusher 1 now sails on Dutch waters

Three paragons

In summary, all three vessels are paragons of innovative strength, customisation, sustainability and the boldness of Dutch shipbuilding.

Picture (top): The Canopée is one of the three nominees (by Tom van Oossanen/KNVTS).