Eco-boat to revolutionise shipping industry using power of the elements

Hydrogen-fuelled Porrima used for turtle recovery has been in Dubai for three weeks of servicing

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The designer of a trimaran sailing boat has promised his revolutionary 'concept craft' can transform the way the maritime industry fishes and ships goods around the world.

The vessel is powered by the sun, hydrogen and wind.

The brainchild of Belgian professor Gunter Pauli, the boat is centred on environmental research. It cleans up the seas using nano-plastic filters and bubble fishing — a natural way to fish.

Bubble fishing is where male fish are pushed into a container and pregnant females are released from the catch.

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We are demonstrating how to ferry people around, depollute and fish sustainably
Professor Gunter Pauli

The 36-metre-long Porrima has 515 square metres of solar panels on board capable of converting salt water to hydrogen. This is enough power to propel the ship for two days after only two hours of charging.

Energy generated by the sun, wind and water is stored within 8 tonnes of batteries on board. A 40-metre kite sail is capable of providing 100 tonnes of force from a height of 200m above the sea.

The Swiss-flagged Porrima took three years to build and arrived in Dubai at the end of March for a service and maintenance. It is currently on a three-year circumnavigation of the globe, after which it will arrive in Japan to feature at the World Expo in Osaka in 2025.

“This is a milestone for the world", said Prof Gunter, who donated his ship to be used as a launching station for sea turtles rescued in Dubai.

“We have done almost 100,000 nautical miles, but we are slow so we need to work on speed with longer floaters, maybe three times longer to triple the speed.

“We know this is important in the world of competition

“When fuel is $120 a barrel, this vessel would pay for itself within five years.

“We don’t want to build museum pieces; we want these to be used practically and become a new standard.”

In 2023, the ship will travel to Morocco after visiting Qatar during the World Cup, where it will act as a hub for Swiss dignitaries in Doha.

The design is specific to the green technology on board, so cannot be retrofitted to existing shipping vessels or fishing trawlers.

However, a version of this boat could be repurposed to seat 120 passengers to act as a ferry. Four are in production, to be used by fleet operators, with fishing boats due to be built in 2024.

By 2024, the Porrima Foundation aims to have rolled out 1,000 nano-plastic filters on existing vessels operating in the Mediterranean.

An estimated 730 tonnes of plastic waste are polluting the Mediterranean every day. Plastics account for between 95 to 100 per cent of total floating litter, and half of all seabed litter.

Within 10 years of operations, the vessels have the potential to clean the entire Mediterranean of nano-plastics. These are extremely small pieces or particles of plastic resulting from the disposal or breakdown of plastic products and constituting debris or pollution, especially in a marine environment.

By 2030, Prof Pauli hopes to have completed the design and production of an 80-metre vessel using the same technology. The vessel would be capable of travelling around the world in 80 days with 20 containers on board.

“We want show how it is possible to clean the ocean of plastic, fish with bubbles, and travel the world sustainably and efficiently,” Prof Pauli said.

“Maritime transport is the most polluting in the world. Cruise ships in Barcelona pollute more than all cars in Europe combined.

“Shipping companies are not yet transitioning towards this technology, so the only way to change is to build these ships.

“We are demonstrating how to ferry people around, depollute and fish sustainably.”

While in Dubai, the Porrima was used as a launching station by the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project.

The programme has rescued more than 2020 sea turtles since 2004.

A batch of 10 sea turtles, three green and seven hawksbill, were released from the Porrima into the water by Jumeirah Beach.

“Some weeks we get up to 15 in a week, others we don’t get any,” said Barbara Lang-Lenton Arrizabalaga, aquarium director at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.

“People are getting more aware of the problems and how they can help, so we are getting more each year — around 300 in 2021.

“Most are in recovery for three to six months, then released when the weather is good.”

Juvenile turtles can have problems with temperature changes or storms, whereas adults can get caught up in fishing line or ingest plastics in the water.

Some turtles can spend up to two years in recovery before being released back to the Gulf.

One 100-kilogram green turtle, named Dibba, was microchipped and recorded to have swum around 9,000 kilometres to Thailand after its rescue in Fujairah, via Sri Lanka, only nine months after being released.

Sea turtles mostly arrive in the winter, with 80 per cent being the local hawksbill species.

Once released, most turtles migrate to where they were born or other popular nesting and feeding areas.

“Many have barnacle growth, which slows them down making it harder to escape predators or avoid infection,” Ms Lang-Lenton Arrizabalaga said.

“Removing encrusted marine growth can hurt the turtles, and affect its weight, making it difficult to swim.

“Anyone finding a turtle is advised to call the centre’s 800TURTLE number for collection, not to remove barnacles and keep it in cool, shallow, fresh water or a wet towel.”

Updated: June 01, 2022, 5:42 AM
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