These Teched-Out Catamarans Will Guard the Great Barrier Reef

Simply naming an area like Australia's Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site isn't going to protect its delicate ecosystem. To prevent poachers, fisheries, and inconsiderate tourists from damaging the reefs and disturbing its residents, Australia is building a fleet of solar-powered shepherd ships.

The Catamaran Patrol Vessel (CPV), designed by a collaborative team between Incat Crowther and Marine Engineering Consultants (MEC), measures 24 meters long with an 8.5 meter beam and 1.3 meter draft. A pair of Yanmar 6AYM-WGT engines afford the CPV and its crew of eight up a top speed of up to 25 knots.

The vessel's twin diesel generators are fed from both the ship's 12,000 liter reserves of fuel and from the extensive network of solar panels that line the upper decks. As Incat Crowther explains:

The extensive solar array takes advantage of modern lithium-ion batteries to reduce the use of diesel generators both in operation and whilst at anchor at night. The batteries are charged during the day by solar power, allowing the vessel’s diesel generators to remain shut down overnight. At these times, the battery bank will supply power for house loads, including air conditioning. In the event of increased demand, the generators will automatically start. Depending on the load case, they will either provide direct power, or charge the batteries. This reduces running costs and will dramatically reduce the cost of maintaining the generators. The cost effective nature of this configuration is further enhanced by the benefits of lithium ion batteries. These batteries are a quarter of the weight and can provide up to ten times the power and ten times the lifecycle of conventional lead acid batteries.

For off-boat excursions, such as ferrying crew members out to various dive sites, the CPV is equipped with both a six meter and a 4.5 meter RIB (Rigid-hulled inflatable boat). The keel has yet to even be laid but officials from Queensland’s Department of National Parks and Incat Crowther hope to have it in the water by early next year.

While it may not be enough to prevent reef erosion entirely, at least now there's a sentry that's up to the task of slowing it down. [Incat Crowther via GCaptain]