One regular feature of the Worldwide Ferry Safety Association’s (WFSA’s) annual conference is its ‘Design Competition for a Safe and Affordable Ferry’ – and this year’s gathering, hosted in New York City in March, did not disappoint. For this year’s contest – the fifth, to date – the WFSA challenged student teams to produce the design for a 300-pax capacity ferry operating in the Singapore Strait, between Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.
First prize was clinched by ‘Team Singapore’, comprising representatives from Singaporean institutions Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University, as well as Newcastle University, UK. Headed by captain Marcus Teo Tze Kang, this team presented the SolarJet concept, intended to provide a stable, environmentally clean means of transport.
The SolarJet concept comprises a 36m x 9m ferry with a depth of 1.79m and a draught of 2m. The team selected a tri-mono, hybrid aluminium-steel alloy hull design, which, Teo Tze Kang says, should result in maximum vessel stability, while remaining affordable to most local boatbuilders. He tells Ship & Boat International: “The ferry’s aerodynamic design primarily addresses wind drag and resistance through its monohull design and its V-shaped base. The monohull design’s higher hull displacements reduce the adverse effects of crosswinds in tight conditions, and its V-shaped base mitigates slamming impact loads, including those from the wind.”
This optimised stability, says Teo Tze Kang, means the ferry can be built ‘ballast-free’, reducing lifecycle and maintenance costs as well as vessel weight.
A malleable screen on top of the ferry will double up as a solar panel and an augmented reality (AR) display screen. The arrangement would be similar to Tesla’s Powerwall solution, Teo Tze Kang says, adding: “Like the Tesla solar grid system, the solar roof integrates with the battery in the ferry, allowing you to use solar energy whenever you choose and providing uninterrupted electric power during outages.”
Teo Tze Kang estimates that the SolarJet’s own ‘Powerwall’ battery would take six to seven hours to charge and would grant the vessel a range of approximately 130 miles. Given the tropical climate of the Singapore Strait, there should be no significant drawbacks to keeping the battery topped up.
While the screen will capture solar rays on top, its underside will offer an AR display for passenger entertainment. “Usually, ferry rides out at sea can be monotonous, and the scenery gets repetitive after a while,” Teo Tze Kang says. “Hence, we decided to build an AR screen on the ceiling. That way, commuters on the upper deck can look up to experience simulated sceneries.”
In addition to its solar power grid, the vessel would be fitted with medium-speed diesel engines and a triple-waterjet arrangement– the latter providing enhanced manoeuvrability and low noise levels.
Two gangways should result in swift embarkation/disembarkation times for all passengers, and also enable timely evacuation in the event of an emergency. The ferry will also feature foldable chairs, to facilitate wheelchair access, and “specially designed lighting, to allow for light to be distributed well throughout the cabin”. LED lights would result in an energy saving of 30% compared to fluorescent lighting, he says.
The team has calculated that it would cost about US$4.5 million to build one SolarJet, though Teo Tze Kang adds: “If more ferries are built, the price can be reduced by up to 40-50%, due to economies of scale.”