Alcúdia Tech Mar has been developing the project in Alcudia for the past three years, but six months ago decided they were in a position to seriously put the plan into action and the company is now awaiting confirmation of Next Generation European funds to develop the giant sailing ship’s use as the first sustainable merchant transport of its kind in the Mediterranean, if not the world.
Bartomeu Rosselló of Alcúdia Tech Mar told the Bulletin that they have managed to secure support, backing and interest from a number of private local and international leading companies in the field of sustainable transport, energy and construction, including one of the world most important multinationals, although none can be identified at this stage as the project is still very much under wraps.
Nevertheless, if all goes to plan, work on constructing the vessel, to be named L’esperança, ‘hope’ in English, will begin in Alcudia within four months and she should be fit to set sail within the space of a year.
“The 40 to 50 metre vessel will be built using traditional techniques.
“We have looked at wood and even iron, but they are extremely complicated and time-consuming materials to work with. Plus, using aluminium, we don’t need a particularly large area, which also means that the prototype vessel will be easy to build in small shipyards around the world.
“And apart from being entirely of naval aluminium, in addition to harnessing the power of the wind with giant sails, she will have an electric and hydrogen engine, with a main engine and two secondary engines.
“The latter two will function as electric generators when the boat is under sail and she will be fitted with solar panels which will be used while the vessel is docked in port. This way, she will be fully sustainable, with zero emissions and, likewise, have a zero consumption energy balance,” Rosselló explained.
“This is an entirely Balearic project. The skipper is from Formentera and the nautical engineers from Ibiza and Mallorca,” he added.
But there is much more to this project than building a sustainable means of nautical transport.
“It’s not only about creating a new form of zero emissions transport, it’s also about changing the culture.
“Being based in such an important strategic geographic position in the western Mediterranean, we have gone back in time and uncovered all of Mallorca’s and the western Mediterranean’s ancient trading routes and intend to revive them.
“Our cargo is going to be high quality, ecological local produce and we will be connecting Mallorca with small ports on the east coast of the mainland, Tunisia, Algeria, the south of France, Italy, Corsica and Sardinia, for example, and the vessel will be fitted with cameras and GPS systems so clients and consumers can track their goods in real time and also monitor our emissions, which will be zero.
“At the same time, we are in contact with a number of producers in various countries and islands, with whom we aim to reconnect to source quality gourmet products and to whom we have explained our philosophy and how we want to change the culture of production and transport.
“For example, all the producers and consumers either delivering goods to or collecting from the vessel in port will have to use zero carbon footprint means of transport.
“At the moment, when we buy ecological produce, it may have been grown ecologically but it has then been transported by conventional means and has therefore left a carbon footprint, so this cannot really be described as ecological produce because the system has been interrupted at some point during its transportation or storage,” he explained.
“Yes, there are companies in northern Europe and even in the cruise industry talking about and looking into zero emission means of propulsion, but very few have actually got round to putting this into practice as part of an all-round package. We are talking about a zero emissions chain from start to finish, from the producers to the consumers,” he added.
“In so doing, we will be able to help producers to reduce their costs while reviving their business and opening their markets to new consumers. So this is a project with multiple facets. L’esperança will have a maximum sailing speed of 10 to 15 knots and our initial plan is to connect ports within three days sailing of each other.
“We are finalising the design as we speak. The exact size of the sails has yet to be confirmed but we have studied other yachts using similar technology such as the Maltese Falcon, which uses the ‘DynaRig’ concept, a 1960s invention by German hydraulics engineer Wilhelm Prölss and intended to operate cargo ships with a fuel-saving philosophy and as few crew as possible. But we’ve taken that technology to a whole new level. Here in Mallorca we’ve developed absolutely cutting-edge technology for this project and, looking forward, L’esperança, as Alcúdia Tech Mar’s flagship, will become a training and institutional representation vessel for young mariners and engineers interested in the zero emission nautical industry. This has got to become the future means of maritime transport, be it recreational or industrial, and we have to act now, which is why we are ahead of many other companies in this field.
“The debate over zero emission transport is raging, everybody’s talking about it, but what is actually being done? Not enough as far as we are concerned.
“We have decided that the time for talking is over and it is now time for action - which is why L’esperança will be ready to set sail within 16 to 18 months out of Alcudia.”
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