Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Is it Boat? Is it a Plane? No it’s the New Generation All Electric Sail-Fly Fast Ferry

Cross Channel Passenger Transport is About to Speed Up
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – UK– OK, so it might not technically be a freight story but the announcement from Brittany Ferries that the company is seriously reviewing the introduction of a 'flying boat', based on the Russian built 'Caspian Sea Monster'of the 1960's, is well worth a comment.

Similar idea, but in some aspects, worlds apart. Whilst the Russian Navy plane, only one of which was ever constructed, was viewed as a potential weapon of war by the West, plotting to ferry troops very quickly across bodies of water, the latest iteration is an all-electric chimera between a hovercraft and hydrofoil, initially designed to cut the crossing time from Cherbourg to Portsmouth from three hours to around one sixth of that with speeds up to 180 mph..

With an expected range of 180 miles Seaglider as she is named, is no space age fantasy. The technology, being developed by Boston-based start-up REGENT (Regional Electric Ground Effect Nautical Transport), should see smaller versions of similar craft in the air (or on the water if you prefer) by 2025 with a targetto see Channel crossings by 2028.

Anyone who has travelled on the ‘Vomit Comet’, the fast ferry which appears on Channel crossings, will hope that the principal of the wing mounted props causing sufficient speed to lift the hull of the craft completely clear of the water can eliminate some of the turbulence which can occur on these, and conventional ships, during inclement weather.

Having signed an agreement on developing the concept the US and French partners are confident a smoother ride will result for the up to 150 passengers aboard. The vessel effectively rides on an air cushion as the propellers provide the initial thrust and electric motors regulate precisely the air flow over the wings as speed picks up. Brittany Ferries ports and operations director Frederic Pouget commented:

Seaglider is an attractive and exciting concept and we look forward to working with REGENT in the months and years to come. We are particularly pleased to contribute now because it means we can bring real-world challenges and potential applications into the company’s thinking at an early stage. We hope this may help bring commercial success in the years that follow. Who knows; this could be the birth of ferries that fly across the Channel.”

One of the main attractions of the idea is of course that there will be no emissions from the craft, powered as she is entirely by electricity, and she is being designed to include the latest digital navigation and obstacle avoidance software. REGENT co-founder and chief executive Billy Thalheimer added:

[We are] excited to partner with Brittany Ferries to bring the future of maritime transportation to market. Brittany Ferries offers world-class operational experience which will help REGENT ensure that our Seagliders will be the most convenient and comfortable form of cross-Channel travel.”