Turanor PlanetSolar, huge solar-powered yacht nearing the end of its global circumnavigation, is about to embark on the most dangerous section of its voyage, the pirate zone of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Without mentioning the word 'arms' PlanetSolar have announced that they have taken on high security specialists led by no less than a former chief of the Swiss armed forces..
Turanor PlanetSolar berthed in Doha
Currently docked at Adnec Marina in Abu Dhabi to take part as a guest of honour at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), PlanetSolar is now actively preparing for the dangerous crossing of the Gulf of Aden under the responsibility of Christophe Keckeis, former chief of the Swiss armed forces.
After more than 25,000nm covered using solar energy only, which represents approximately the 4/5ths of its world tour, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar will be, for this next leg, under the supervision of the corps commander in active retirement Christophe Keckeis.
They anticipate that the next few weeks are going to be gruelling for the whole PlanetSolar team. 'We will not take any risk with the security of this crew achieving the first world tour using solar energy!', warns Christophe Keckeis whose main mission is to deter any pirates attack in the seas along the Arabian Peninsula. 'We will do everything to protect this vessel that is sailing under Swiss flag!.'
Christophe Keckeis stresses that, with its normal speed of 4 to 6 knots, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar is too slow. It cannot be integrated within the stream of other ships and tankers that are sailing the secured corridors at more than 18 knots.
'We were aware of the piracy risks even before our departure more than 16 months ago,' explains Raphaël Domjan, Initiator and Expedition Leader of PlanetSolar. 'We are actively preparing to going up the Red Sea for months because the danger is very real. These past weeks, the most optimistic numbers are reporting around 200 hostages; some even mention 290 persons being held captive in pirates rear bases!'
This dangerous leg should take a few weeks depending on the weather conditions. The preparation is being broken down in several phases; thoroughly spotting the area, an in-depth knowledge of the risks and inspecting the ship's security system as well as the emergency procedures which are drilled over and over again.
Importantly, in addition to the on board crew, there will be additional security specialists of the highest level. The statement from the company includes the cryptic information that 'the protection of the solar catamaran and its sailors will only be possible with the collaboration of other States and partners.'
PlanetSolar was initiated by the Swiss man Raphaël Domjan and its headquarters are in Yverdon-les-Bains in Switzerland.
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, built in Kiel in Germany, is a catamaran functioning solely with solar energy. It is covered with 572 m2 of photovoltaic cells.
After two years of design and construction, PlanetSolar is at the origin of numerous technological progresses, notably in the domain of the fabrication of composite materials and in the storage of the solar energy.
PlanetSolar is funded mainly by private partners, such as the Swiss watches company Candino and the German specialist in management of solar energy Immosolar, but also by public institutions such as the Swiss Confederation through Presence Switzerland.
For its world tour, PlanetSolar is turning to the weather forecasts of MétéoFrance. An innovative routing software was specifically conceived for this expedition.
Specifications of MS Tûranor PlanetSolar:
• Length: 35 m / Width: 23 m
• Height: 6.10 m / Weight: 95 t
• Solar Panels: 38'000 with 22,6% yield
• Maximum engine power: 120 kW
• Average Engine: 20 kW (26.8 HP)
• Crew: min 4 people