The container ship and the hydrogen speedboat with foils

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A container ship equipped with foils to compete with air transport and a hydroplane for private transport in the United Arab Emirates. Ideas for mobility that is not just hybrid or electric

Maurizio Bertera

08 March

It is clear that hydrogen cannot be enough to move vehicles on the road and not even ships. But interesting projects are multiplying that aim to make travel on water with zero emissions, even on long distances. Currently, the few full electric models have problems of autonomy while for superyachts hybrid solutions are adopted – often avant-garde – which allow zero-emission sailing in natural parks, along the coast or in unhurried transfers. Hence, the idea of ​​using hydrogen which allows very long journeys and does not pollute in the least. On the subject, a Californian start-up – Boundary Layer Technologies – has published a project for the construction of a freighter equipped with foil and fueled by fuel cells “which could be extended to other forms of transport, from ferries to larger ships for the transpacific service, ”according to the company.


Named Argo, the ship will produce green hydrogen from fuel cells stored in the ship’s double hulls. With a length of approximately 33 meters and a capacity of 20 Teu containers, Argo reaches a gross payload of only 200 tons but on the other hand would have a range of up to 1,500 nautical miles. According to the designers, she would be a suitable means of transporting finished products and components on the main Asian routes. According to Ed Kearney, CEO and founder of Boundary Layer Technologies, “Argo’s small size and high speed could be the key to solving many supply chain problems.” In the company’s plans, however, there is an evolution of the project, to significantly increase the load capacity. The ship would travel at speeds of up to 40 knots which is double that of conventional container ships, thanks to the use of foils. Furthermore, it has been calculated that on the same route it would allow transit times from 15 to 24 hours slower than air freight transport, but with a halving of the cost.


The Jet has a different vocation, a sort of 21st century seaplane that is being designed in Dubai. The idea comes from a genius of sailing, by Alain Thébault, 60 years old from Dijon, who has carved out a place in the history of sailing as the creator of Hydroptère, the first multihull with foils. Today the aerodynamic appendages on the boats are also seen in the America’s Cup, at the time it was only the collaboration on the project of the legend Eric Tabarly that allowed their realization. In ten years of testing, the strange object went from 35 knots to 50 knots (about 95 km / h), setting the world speed record. After various exploits related to electric propulsion, Thébault launched himself on the hydrogen planet. He founded a start-up in Switzerland and The Jet was immediately released, the first clean energy seaplane that attracted the interest of a couple of commercial partners in the United Arab Emirates, ready to provide 10 million dolars. The reason is obvious: renewable energy is at the forefront of the priorities of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. The Jet falls like a bean, as it can fly silently over water at 40 knots, eliminating noise pollution. The luxurious three-foil spacecraft-like water craft has a capacity of 8/12 passengers and is equipped with two powerful fuel cells to produce hydrogen as well as other environmentally friendly technologies. Thébault has promised that the first specimen will be ready by November 2023.

08 March 2022 – 14:12