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VPLP launches its shipping department

At the beginning of the year, VPLP Design opened a new department dedicated to shipping. The culmination of several years’ work, it’s a major development in the history of the firm and builds on its success in racing, cruising and yachting. The new department gives concrete expression to VPLP’s burgeoning presence in the shipping sector which began last October when ArianeGroup chose the firm to design the Canopée, a RORO vessel tasked with carrying sections of the Ariane 6 rocket from Europe out to French Guiana.

This new department has been entrusted to Simon Watin, who returned to the firm earlier this year. “Simon is a perfect example of VPLP’s development,” says Marc Van Peteghem. “He came to us in 2008 on an internship at the end of his studies at the École Polytechnique and the engineering school ENSTA. Three years later we took him on to work on the America’s Cup and he subsequently joined Artemis Racing. And here is six years later managing, what is for us, a new business.”

So what role is this new department going to play in merchant shipping, a sector where the main players are already well established? “It isn’t a question of us competing with engineering and design firms who already work with the shipyards,” says Marc. “Our goal is to add a new ‘design layer’ devoted to performance which leverages our expertise in technologies developed in the racing world.” With the decarbonization of the maritime sector (an issue dear to VPLP Design for many years) gaining momentum, we can expect that hulls, underwater profiles, sea-keeping characteristics, flows and propellers are all going to evolve. Not forgetting, of course, propulsion systems and foils… “There are direct knowledge transfers to be had between our experience in the racing world and the maritime sector,” says Marc Van Peteghem.

So will Simon Watin be able to draw on the marine engineering and design resources in other VPLP departments? “My job is to coordinate the naval architecture aspects transversely,” says Simon, from his office in Nantes, “although OceanWings is now managed by Ayro, a company set up especially for the development and marketing of wingsail technology outside VPLP.”

And there are plenty of projects on the go! In addition to the Canopee, VPLP Design is, in partnership with Alwena Shipping, working on the design of F3, a fast foiling ferry (whence the 3 Fs!) capable of cruising at 45 knots with fuel savings of 40% compared to conventional displacement craft. This thirty-metre catamaran was unveiled at Euromaritime last February. “It’s a general purpose platform,” says Simon Watin, “with a range of 500 nautical miles which makes it ideal, for example, for inter-island transport or for supplying oil rigs. The idea is to offer a viable alternative to the helicopter, the latter being less competitive over short distances.”

Other projects are in the offing, in particular with Zephyr & Boree, our partners in the design of the Canopee, but it’s too early to reveal more. “We are in the midst of a huge job raising awareness among shipowners and operators of the regulatory changes and the impact these will have,” says Simon Watin. “And we’re getting much more interest than we would have imagined.” There are, of course, other longer-term goals, such as a public service boat in Polynesia and Marc Van Peteghem’s dream project: “A totally green ferry working the nine nautical miles which separate Bonifacio and Sardinia. The wind blows 300 days a year in the Straits of Bonifacio…”