French yacht designer moves into commercial wind-powered shipping

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 11 October 2019

ShipInsight


French naval architecture firm VPLP has reached a new milestone with the development of a 121m ro-ro vessel for transporting components of the Ariane 6 rocket from Europe to French Guiana. Equipped with four of the company’s Oceanwings, the vessel is designed to have the least impact possible on the environment.

This is a major milestone in the history of VPLP, the design firm founded in 1983 by Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot-Prévost. After competitive sailing, cruising and yachting, the firm has turned its attention to a new sector: maritime transport.

Arianegroup

ArianeGroup, the primary contractor for the Ariane launch vehicle, put out a call for tenders concerning the transportation of the various parts of the new Ariane 6 launcher from Europe to the launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana. The contract to build was awarded to the maritime company Alizés, a joint venture between the offshore services specialist Jifmar and Zéphyr & Borée, a young maritime company specialising in carbon-free transport.

VPLP Design was entrusted by Alizés with the task of designing a ship – named Canopée – in accordance with the specifications of the project. The design firm came up with a ro-ro vessel which is 121m long and 23m in the beam and features a bridge in the bow and an open deck aft with high sides to protect the cargo.

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A major innovation, Canopée’s hybrid propulsion comprises four 30m high Oceanwings providing a total surface area of 1,452m2. Designed by VPLP, Oceanwings are automated and reefable soft wingsails associated with a routeing system developed separately. These wingsails assist the ship’s main propulsion system to reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 30%. A new company, Ayro, has been set up for the specific purpose of developing Oceanwings.

Every aspect of Canopée’s design contributes to using less fuel and reducing her environmental impact: hull suitable for hybrid propulsion, optimised aero-hydrodynamics, dual fuel main engines, variable pitch propellers, solar panels to cover energy requirements aboard ship… “We took a fresh look at the specifications, in particular performance and wind-generator mode, with the aim of facilitating operations and reducing fuel consumption,” said Marc Van Peteghem, VPLP cofounder.

For VPLP Design, this project is the fruit of a long period of gestation which began with the firm’s collaboration with BMW Oracle and victory in the 2010 America’s Cup with a trimaran featuring a rigid wingsail. This experience left Marc Van Peteghem with the firm conviction that the expertise gained in the world of yacht racing could be applied to innovating maritime transport. “Shipping is facing new challenges, because it alone is responsible for 5% of greenhouse gasses, a figure that is set to double by the year 2050. Pressure from institutions and the general public for clean transport is increasing and stricter regulations are coming into force.”

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