Video: Belfast set to become global hub for zero-emissions catamaran project

One of the world's fastest yachts, the AC45f, berthed in Belfast to coincide with the Artemis Technologies catamaran announcement. Photo: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BELFAST, a city steeped in shipbuilding heritage, is to become a global hub for a new technology-drive maritime project to create the world's first zero-emissions automated catamaran.

Artemis Technologies, a spin-off from America's Cup team Artemis Racing and headed by double Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy, is initially creating 35 jobs at the new facility in Belfast Harbour.

But its longer-term aim is to bring commercial shipbuilding back to the city as it fulfils its ambition of building a constant-speed city-to-city passenger (and ultimately cargo) vessel.

The 45-metre catamaran requires no fossil fuels, offers unlimited range, and will have a top speed of 50 knots (about 60mph) and cruising speed of 30 knots (about 35mph) in any condition.

Artemis will bring together the expertise from the fields of F1 motor sport, aerospace, yacht design, simulation, electronics and aerodynamics to develop new green maritime technologies and build a first-of-its-kind autonomous sailing vessel (ASV).

 Aerial footage of Artemis Racing's America's Cup yacht

Artemis Technologies' chief executive Iain Percy, a veteran of four America's Cup challenges (most recently as team manager and tactician of Artemis Racing), says the company has a clear vision.

He said: "We aim to lead in the decarbonisation of the maritime industry by building on our America's Cup heritage and expertise in hydrofoils, wing sails and control systems to develop and manufacture green-powered commercial vessels, helping to ensure a sustainable maritime future.

"The ASV has a variety of applications including city-to-city passenger transportation and will be the first in a series of commercial maritime products developed in Belfast using the wind and innovative energy recovery systems.

"Through collaboration, research and innovation we plan to utilise Belfast's rich maritime history and the region's world-class expertise in aerospace and composite engineering to create the UK's most advanced maritime manufacturing facility."

Artemis Technologies has announced plans to establish a new facility in Belfast Harbour to return commercial shipbuilding to the city. Pictured at the launch are (from left) Artemis Technologies chief executive Iain Percy OBE, Secretary of State Karen Bradley, Belfast Harbour chief executive Joe O’Neill and Artemis Technologies head of innovation Mark Gillan. Photo: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

Mr Percy said the catamaran would be autonomous but manned, akin to an aircraft pilot who controls the plane while the actual wing movements are automated using sensors.

He said: "Sensors are better than sailors. It would not last very long if the pilot was doing it himself."

The vessel will be ultra-light, built using cutting-edge composite materials and able to carry up to 50 passengers.

Artemis will collaborate with local universities and the aerospace sector to help it kick-start its shipbuilding resurgence in the city.

Already it has received the backing and collaborative support from the likes of Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, Stena Line, Bombardier, Harland and Wolff, Queen's University, Ulster University, Belfast Met, Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering (NIACE), Creative Composites and Catalyst Inc.

NIACE general manager Dave Thompson said: "The locating of this Artemis centre in Northern Ireland is a great endorsement of our technological capability. Artemis is developing products that have the potential to revolutionise sustainable maritime transportation.

"The ASV being created in Belfast will draw on aspects of aerospace, automotive, marine and electrical engineering, in addition to AI, control systems and data security, and it is an unique opportunity for those innovative advanced engineering firms in Northern Ireland to work with Artemis."

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