KOCHI: Close on the heels of winning a global honour for ‘Aditya’, India’s first solar-powered ferry, its Kochi-based manufacturer, NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats, has already set its sight on uncharted territories. With two upcoming landmark projects, NavAlt boats will be foraying into the fishing sector and defence industry for the first time.
In association with Shell Foundation, a solar fishing boat will be built to empower small and medium fishers. In alliance with Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (a government initiative under the Ministry of Defence), a 10-passenger high-speed solar-powered ferry will be created from the scratch. The promising maritime projects were recently inaugurated by Emmanuel Lenain, French Ambassador to India.
With its innovative, green ferries, NavAlt had already established a name for itself in the commercial space. By charting inroads in the fishing sector, the naval architects will be vying for social impact. “A few years ago, we had carried out a few pilot projects in Gujarat for fishermen with 30-foot-long boats by trying to convert their petrol engines into solar. While we tried retrofitting them, we learnt it wasn’t effective. This, however, helped us comprehend their functional needs.
Along with Shell, we’ll be building five boats for now which will be given to a fishing cluster in Ernakulam as a demonstration. Ideally, the project was to commence in March but got delayed due to the pandemic. The first two boats will be ready by June 2021,” said Sandith Thandasherry, founder and CEO, NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats.
Currently, small fishermen employ boats which consume 15 to 20 litres of subsidised fuel and requires nearly Rs 10,000 as maintenance cost per year. “The idea is to save at least Rs 2 lakh in fuel and thereby have their returns on investment under five years, assuming there is no government support. However, the latter comes into play only when we have adoption and scale in the second phase. Once the fishermen are convinced with the working of the first five boats, we will launch 100 more boats,” added Sandith.
The second boat will be India’s fastest solar electric catamaran boat which can travel at the speed of 12 knots (double the speed of ‘Aditya’), reducing travel time from 90 minutes to 30 minutes. “The sea-going vessel is significant as a technology demonstrator for the defence sector. While normally, inland vessels do not operate in monsoon, our solar vessel can. Typically, the defence sector wouldn’t consider solar or electric as their field.
Our boat is a demonstration to prove that their vessels can have electric propulsion and save fuel. It will be docked in the Ministry of Defence shipyard in Mumbai and traverse 10km between MDL main unit to MDL Nhava unit,” explained Sandith.While the solar fishing boat can improve the livelihood of small fishers, eliminate carbon emissions and avoid sea pollution, the solar catamaran for defence is sophisticated in terms of performance, needs and technology. “We want to be leaders in this space through this demonstration,” he said.
While the solar fishing boat can improve the livelihood of small fishers, eliminate carbon emissions and avoid sea pollution, the solar catamaran for defence has sophisticated technology