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Pirat' goes electric

Tradition and innovation have come together on the island of Heligoland, Germany, as the first of the island's traditional börteboote (boarding boats) has had her diesel engine replaced.

Torqeedo’s Deep Blue 50i electric motor has been retro-fitted to the ‘Pirat’, one of the handcrafted oak boats still used to transport visitors from large ships in harbour to Germany’s only offshore territory; famous for natural beauty, spectacular red cliffs, bathing beaches, sea birds and a unique maritime history.

Heligoland and the islet of Dé¼ne are two small islands 65 km off the northern coast of Germany, Historically, an exclusive seaside spa and resort for upper-class Europeans, Heligoland was once claimed by Denmark and then by England which in 1890 traded Heligoland to Germany in exchange for Zanzibar. Nowadays, it is a holiday island, a location for top marine research, and a base for offshore wind services.

The boarding boats each carry up to 50 passengers from the ship to the island docks.  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 Mr. 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 lithium-ion 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.

Mr. 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.  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.

"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.

“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.”

The fleet's first electric börteboot will be presented to the public on the 10th of August during the 65th annual börteboot regatta.

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