Aqua and the versatility of water

Sinot Yacht Architecture and Design made a big splash at the Monaco Yacht Show in September with a 10-foot mock-up of their latest design proposal named Aqua. It is a fine looking boat. Even more impressive is the 3D design which is digital imagery at the top of its game, with an accompanying tip-top video. It is so impressive it even made the Daily Mail – is that a good thing?


Boat International have all the images as well. The language  on the Sinot web site is flowery, three dimensional. Why use two adjectives when you can use three. Just what is ‘the fluid versatility of water’? Clearly there are very excited about this project. But with a design team like theirs you can excuse the hyperbole.

The aspect of this proposed design which got us interested was not the futuristic interiors or sleek exterior, which looks a good 250 million of anyone’s money to build, but the hydrogen engine technology from Lateral Marine Architects. This is really, and we mean really, on point, on trend and at the same time innovative.

I am just going to quote verbatim from their Aqua Book.

We live in a period of change. The sustainability of our lifestyles and the choices we make are now critical to our lives and our planet. The beliefs, values and ideas of new generations mean today’s thinking will be outdated tomorrow. Governments and individuals are acting to force change. Cultural shifts and regulations are coalescing to drive rapid advancement in technology bringing the promise of disruptive change; incremental progress is simply too slow. In this new world order what does the future of superyacht technology look like? How will naval architecture, engineering and technology address the demands of the future?

 Futurology is the study of postulating possible, probable and preferable futures, and the worldviews that underline them. How do you think about THE FUTURE of superyachts? Think back 100 years; yachts were powered by steam. Now try to imagine the year 2119. What technologies do you foresee as underpinning your view of the future? No matter what your perspective is, there are many outcomes that may equally come to pass, but what can we say for certain? THE FUTURE IS ZERO We believe this with conviction; ZERO carbon, ZEROemissions. Zero, driven by a worldview that is rooted in the need for greater sustainability in all areas of our lives, including the business and pleasure of superyachts. LATERAL FUTUROLOGY IS BASED ON THREE FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS TO ACHIEVING ZERO”

Stirring stuff and dserves a round of applause. Although this does have some aspects of a rant spoken standing on a box at Hyde Park Corner, they do back it up with some pretty impressive technology and methodology.  They argue that current superyacht design is embedded in data relating to principal dimensions, Gross Tonnage and general proportions and form. Design needs to move away from that.

Shifting the paradigm

Alternative fuels hold the promise of achieving the full 100% required to get to
zero emmission, the holy grail. It is possible to engineer and build a yacht today that would achieve zero emmisions, with a relatively low technology risk. Hydrogen fuels offer the possibility to convert fuel to electricity which will drive the yacht and all of its components. At the heart of AQUA is the use of a hydrogen/electric propulsion and energy architecture system.

For application within a modern yacht, Lateral consider that liquid hydrogen fuelling PEM
fuel cells in conjunction with a full electric architecture is currently the most viable 100%
hydrogen solution.

Liquid hydrogen is a cryogenic fuel that vaporises into a flammable gas. In this respect
many of the safety concerns are similar to LNG which is now in service onboard passenger andcruise ships. Hydrogen has both challenges and benefits when compared to LNG. Within the Aqua design it is expected that a similar approach to the use of LNG will be adopted to
develop safely engineered solutions.


To achieve a transatlantic range Aqua carries 28 tonnes of liquid hydrogen stored at -253oC in vacuum insulated tanks.

What’s on Tv tonight?

Sounds great. What are the problems?

First of all, there is no significant green hydrogen production at an industrial scale. This means there is no distribution system for hydrogen fuel.

Next, there is no regulation in place for the use of hydrogen at sea. Safety both at sea and at berth has to be regulated. The two prime dangers from fuel cell and hydrogen-powered vehicles are the danger of electrical shock and the flammability of the fuel. Fuel cells power vehicles by electro-chemically combining hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen (O2) from the surrounding air into water (H20) and electrical energy.

The EU funded group Hydrogen Europe predicts a time-line for the introduction of
hydrogen by 2025 and a widespread hydrogen useage by 2030. Yachting has the
opportunity and drivers to be in the first wave of hydrogen application.

Inspiration is the name of the game

Lateral is  financially supported by Oceanco and is, essentially, an offshoot of the large yacht division at BMT Nigel Gee. It is situated in a new studio on Shamrock Quay in Southampton, with James Roy, yacht design director of BMT Nigel Gee, serving as the firm’s entity managing director.

Its 50-strong team of engineers and naval architects are currently working on four 100m+ new-build projects and a series of smaller projects. This is no ordinary team. These guys are on a mission – to inspire, change and question.