THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Sometimes, the key to innovation is to observe the obvious. City-based naval architect Sandith T has harnessed the sun’s energy to make India’s first solar-powered ferry. Under the banner Navgathi Marine Design & Construction, the 38-year-old has also won himself a place in the 2016 Limca Book of World Records for his invention. While partnering with the Kerala State Water Transport Department to run solar-powered ferries in the Vaikkom-Thavanakkadavu route in May, his company is also offering solar powered two- and six-seater boats to boating enthusiasts, to explore the backwaters around the city.
“Navgathi is primarily involved in designing ships and specialised boats. Apart from the fact that tomorrow’s world will be solar-driven, this resource also has an immense cost-saving potential when it comes water crafts. So we’ve partnered with renowned solar-powered French vessel makers, AltEn and EVE Systems to design our vessels,” begins Sandith, an IIT Madras alumni, who earlier worked for OMI shipping to help build bulk freighters and crude oil tankers. At its lowest range, Navgathi offers two, six and 10-seater boats. A 3.6 metre, two-seater fibre-body boat (`5 lakh plus tax), with tiller guide, can cruise at five knots. It can also retain five hours of battery charge on a sunny day and four hours on a cloudy day. The 5.5 metre six-seater (`12 lakh plus tax) comes equipped with a steering wheel and is ideal for a weekend family cruise, while the 10-seater (`20 lakh plus tax) is great for an offshore party. Anticipating emergencies, all models come equipped with 3.6 to 9.6 kWh of battery bank.
Starting a revolution
“We spend big money on boats and it is unfair to spend more for powering it. Solar power is free, noise less and non-polluting, which is a perfect combination for the navigating the city’s waterbodies,” he explains, adding that all his products strictly adhere to the safety standards set by the Indian Register of Shipping. “Apart from helping new solar boat owners choose vessels and customise them, we also sell trailers to haul them. Currently, we are equipped to build solar ferries that can transport up to a 100 passengers. With this, we believe we will be able to reinvent the public transportation system in Central Kerala,” Sandith signs off.