Solar energy is the driving force behind the ships that Tomislav Uroda from Zagreb wants to make this type of transport more ecological, faster, and more comfortable, and his self-sustaining vessels have been succeeding on Mljet for several years, reports Index.hr.
Frustration at Tomislav Uroda’s very rare and poor inter-island transport prompted him to try to work out a solution to this maritime problem in his own workshop. The idea that one larger ship sails several smaller ones a day, which will also be energy efficient and acceptable for Europe’s future of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, combating climate change, and investing in green technologies, has grown into a successful international story.
“We wanted a better, more luxurious alternative”
At that time, the young mechanical and shipbuilding engineer, a native of Zagreb with roots in the island of Murter, started his business venture ten years ago by founding iCat, and in the years that followed he stood by the leading innovators in the world. He saw an opportunity to conquer the market in solar and electric ships.
“From the beginning, we didn’t want to invent a cheap product, but we wanted a better, more luxurious version of that shipping, and therefore not only in the passenger, economic part but also in the technical part – from accumulation, batteries to solar,” says Uroda.
Connecting the island with the mainland, making shipping a faster and more comfortable way to travel, and overcoming the problem of fuel shortages on the island were key problems in the Mljet National Park, where the first three solar-powered catamarans operate. These three ships named babyCat, powered by solar panels on the roof of the ship, are the first such self-sustaining ships in the world. They develop a speed of at most 9.5 knots and receive 54 passengers. Excess solar energy is stored in the batteries on board.
The boat can be recharged
“The solar-powered catamarans also has coastal chargers, which means that it can be recharged from the coastal port. This replenishment is a good option, and ships on Mljet have been sailing for several years in the summer months and there was never a need for recharging because enough energy is obtained from solar power,” the 50-year-old said.
The island of Mljet (Photo: Mario Romulić)
“We built another such catamaran, but it was just finished at the time of the general closure. Just as air and bus transport disappeared, so did ours. In the few months of this pandemic, there was no interest in our ships at all, but we have been receiving inquiries every day for some time”, says Tomislav, who plans to market his products all over Europe, and then, when the conditions are created, all over the world.
In addition to the solarCat ship, as presented at Jarun, on the same production platform it is possible to build two other types of solar-powered catamarans – one slightly wider, which will have a hundred seats and the other with a double bow, or a ship that does not turn while driving but operates shorter distances.
“We realized that this job is not attractive”
”The workforce is also a big problem”, says Uroda.
“We dreamed of having our own workers in the production plant, but over time we realized that this job is not attractive and that people will come and go here. Croatia no longer has a workforce. We are aware of the situation, but our development team is constant.”, stressed Uroda.
Greater use of the potential of solar energy is one of the main goals of the European Green Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 55 percent by 2030. Intensified use of renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency are key factors in achieving this ambition.
Ambitions in Croatia need to be encouraged, and citizens need to be educated about the benefits of using solar energy, was the conclusion of a two-day conference “Days of the Sun” held at the end of October last year in Hvar. The solar sector is developing very slowly, although the price of such energy is lower than ever, it was said at the gathering.
For more information on the solar-powered catamarans by iCat, click here.
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