A Belfast Maritime Consortium led by Artemis Technologies has won a £33 million UK Government innovation grant to develop zero emissions ferries in the city.

The syndicate says that the development of these innovative ferries will revolutionise the future of maritime transport. With further investment from consortium partners, the total project investment will reach close to £60m over the next four years, creating an initial 125 research and development jobs, and leading to more than 1,000 in the region over the next 10 years.

The 13 partner syndicate - which is a mix of established and young companies, including Belfast Harbour and Bombardier, academia and local public bodies - is the only Northern Irish or maritime recipient of the UK Research and Innovation flagship Strength in Places Fund.

A spin-off from the America’s Cup sailing team, Artemis Racing, Artemis Technologies is led by double Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy OBE.

Iain said: “When we launched Artemis Technologies, we decided to base ourselves in Belfast because of the incredible aerospace and composite engineering talent available.

“Belfast’s local expertise coupled with the city’s rich shipbuilding heritage, and our own America’s Cup yacht design experience, will ensure Belfast is the global lead in zero emissions maritime technology.

“For years, we’ve been designing low energy, high performance solutions for some of the fastest yachts on the planet, and we will now utilise that knowledge, and along with our partners, apply it to build the world's most environmentally friendly high-speed ferries, capable of carrying up to 350 passengers.”

Welcoming the announcement, First Minister Arlene Foster said: “We are all proud of Belfast’s maritime and shipbuilding heritage. However, it is even more exciting to look towards a future which can see Northern Ireland once again leading the way with world-class manufacturing and cutting-edge technology.

“This investment can support economic growth locally, but its impact could be felt globally through solutions to more sustainable transport.”

The Belfast consortium brings together a range of established and young firms, academia and public bodies, including: Belfast Harbour, Bombardier Belfast, Northern Ireland Advanced Composites Engineering (NIACE), Creative Composites, Energia, Catalyst, Invest Northern Ireland, Ulster University, Belfast Met, Queen’s University, Belfast, Ards and North Down Borough Council, and Belfast City Council.

It is worthy of note that at Maritime Journal we have now counted at least five former Olympic or world class sailors who have moved into the exciting new world of using hydrofoils to make commercial vessels more efficient.

The current and non-exhaustive list reads as follows: We have Iain Percy, detailed here, two times Olympic champion in Lasers and Stars, Ben Ainslie, many, many times Olympic Champion in Laser and Finns with BAR's foil stabilised CTVs, and we must not forget the four times world windsurfing champion and first windsurfer to crack 50 knots- Anders Bringdal with his interesting Seabubbles water taxi project, designed, by the way by Alain Thébault, who also designed the record-setting 50-knot-plus Hydroptère ocean racing foiling trimaran. Then there’s the SEAir foiling RIB, born from a background of hydrofoil sailing boats for the innovation-heavy Mini Transat race.

By Jake Frith