Zulu Associates unveils design for zero-emission wind-assisted English Channel vessel

Belgian maritime innovator Zulu Associates has revealed a new concept design for its 200 TEU autonomous short sea container vessel, the Zulu MASS, featuring an auxiliary wind assistance system.

Zulu Associates

The new design has been produced by Dutch ship naval architects Conoship International, according to Antoon Van Coillie, Zulu Associates CEO. It is being developed together with Zulu’s subsidiary the Anglo Belgian Shipping Company and will operate across the English Channel.

“Working with Conoship we are challenging ourselves to build the most advanced and innovative vessel we can. As a result, apart of being fully electric and autonomous, we’re adding wind blades and examining wave foil propulsion. This is an exciting time for short sea ship building. Traditional concepts are being challenged to drive change and enable new zero emission shipping possibilities,” Van Coillie said.

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Van Coillie confirmed the designers are developing modular energy containers for the Zulu MASS using batteries and/or hydrogen-based power systems to provide the prime energy source. He added that discussions with energy providers are ongoing in parallel with the design.

“Autonomy is still in its infancy but we want to show what is possible and support the process of regulation keeping pace with innovation,” Zulu Associates CEO explained.

“As a result, the Zulu MASS is designed to be unmanned as a part of a Maritime Autonomy System, which will allow it to compete with fossil fueled or hybrid vessels.”

Zulu Associates said it fully supports the Belgian Government’s desire to drive clean maritime innovation.

“Belgium is at the forefront of marine innovation and has had a legal framework for pilot projects featuring unmanned vessels in the North Sea since July 2021,” Van Coillie said.

“That has given us the confidence to embrace and invest in the Zulu MASS. Now, Belgium, the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands have signed a Memorandum of Understanding aiming to harmonise the procedures to obtain certification for an unmanned ship to sail between the four countries. This should result in a single request replacing the need of having to apply for two or more permits.”

“We are seizing the initiative of this opportunity and are planning to launch the Zulu MASS as a world first and industry trailblazer in 2025,” he announced.

The Zulu MASS is a larger seagoing version of the inland waterways 90 TEU X-Barge, currently under final construction design for Zulu Associates.

Last year, the 100-meter-long ship received approval in principle (AiP) from classification society Lloyd’s Register.