Zulu unveils design for zero-emission short seas container vessel

Written by Nick Blenkey
short seas container vessel

Zulu Mass short seas container vessel: Electric, autonomous and wind-assisted. [Image: Zulu Associates]

Kappelen, Belgium, based Zulu Associates has unveiled a concept design for a 200 TEU autonomous short seas container vessel, the Zulu Mass. Featuring an auxiliary wind assistance system, it is being produced by Netherlands naval architect firm Conoship International and is being developed for operation across the English channel by Zulu’s subsidiary the Anglo Belgian Shipping Company,.

“We’re delighted to be working with Conoship International who share our passion for innovation,” said Zulu Associates CEO Antoon Van Coillie. “Working with Conoship we are challenging ourselves to build the most advanced and innovative vessel we can. As a result, apart from being fully electric and autonomous, we’re adding wind blades and examining wave foil propulsion. This is an exciting time for short seas shipbuilding. Traditional concepts are being challenged to drive change and enable new zero emission shipping possibilities.”

Van Coillie added that 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, with discussions with energy providers on-going in parallel with the design.

Back in June (see earlier story), Kongsberg Maritime successfully demonstrated live inland waterways autonomy on board the Zulu 4, a self-propelled inland waterway pallet shuttle barge owned by Zulu’s Blue Line Logistics subsidiary and autonomy will also be a feature of the Zulu Mass, which is a larger seagoing version of the inland waterways 90 TEU X-Barge, currently under final construction design for Zulu Associates.

“Autonomy is still in its infancy but we want to show what is possible and support the process of regulation keeping pace with innovation,” Van Coillie said. “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.”

Van Coillie said Zulu Associates is fully supporting 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,” he said. “That has given us the confidence to embrace and invest in the Zulu Mass. Now, Belgium, the U.K., Denmark and the Netherlands have signed a Memorandum of Understanding aiming to harmonize 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.”

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