Belgian vessel developer Zulu Associates has unveiled its concept design for a short sea container vessel.

The 200 teu Zulu Mass vessel incorporates an auxiliary wind assistance system and is the latest design produced by Dutch ship naval architects Conoship International.

Antoon Van Coillie, chief executive of Zulu Associates, said: “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.”

The vessel will operate with modular energy containers, using batteries and/or hydrogen based power systems, to provide the prime energy sources.

Discussions with providers of energy on a use basis are on-going in parallel with the design as this is an integral part of the vessel’s operation.

“Autonomy is still in its infancy but we want to show what is possible and support the process of regulation keeping pace with innovation,” he said. “As a result, the Zulu MASS is designed from the outset 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 are fully supporting the Belgian and other Government’s desires to see marine innovation put into action.

“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 where some in the industry were being much more cautious.”

Belgium, 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 to more permits. We aim to seize the initiative of this opportunity and get the Zulu Mass in the water as a world first and industry trailblazer in 2025,” Van Coillie added.