Along the canals of the cities of water, like Venice for example, there’s a type of pollution which impacts the ecosystem just as much as noise pollution does in traditional cities. It’s the pollution generated by waves, i.e. the constant movement of water caused by passing boats. The first impact is the erosion of buildings, piers and monuments located along the canals. Then, secondly, there are the issues caused in terms of traffic management, particularly when the number of vessels increases. In both cases, speed restrictions can help to alleviate the problem, but they don’t solve it.
As a result of these and other considerations, the GerrisBoats project was developed. GerrisBoats is a start-up that was established in the spring of 2020, during the first lockdown, by the partners of the Ligurian company, Verme Projects. Gerris derives from the Latin name for the water strider, the insect that silently glides across the water without disturbing it.
So, naturally, the objective of the start-up is to produce boats with an innovative platform that’s capable of limiting wave pollution and resolving a series of problems relating to marine traffic and liveability in the cities of water. But an additional objective is to develop a project that’s collaborative and open, a novelty for the boatyard and nautical design market, and the shareholding structure is already strong evidence of this coming to fruition. As of today, GerrisBoats is a union of thirteen partners: the founders Massimo Verme and Roberto Rossi, an engineer with in-depth experience in marine systems, have been joined by leading figures not only from the nautical world, but also from academia, as well as a number of entrepreneurs interested in the development of the prototypes and, in the near future, of the business.
“A shareholding structure designed to provide the project with strong credibility”, explains the founder, Massimo Verme “an objective we’re continuing to pursue, including through the permanent inclusion, in the company, of leading figures from a variety of different fields, who will provide support to the entire project”.
A close analysis of the GerrisBoats project reveals an array of interesting innovations, all of which are interconnected. Firstly there’s the environmental sustainability offered by a fully electric boat. “We need to be clear on his”, Massimo Verme continues, “we haven’t put an electric engine in an existing boat, this is not greenwashing. We’ve designed the characteristics, the shape, the fluid dynamics and the submerged section of the platform, all of which are geared towards enabling this 100% electric-powered boat to achieve maximum efficiency on the water. These are completely different approaches”.
The founder mentions the platform because this is the heart and soul of the project, the part of the vessel that comes into contact with the water. It’s precisely here, with this special patent, that the wave pollution problem is expected to be solved.
Indeed, the GerrisBoats platform enables the vessel to rise and glide above the water, think of a hydrofoil or other foil-equipped boats, however, in this case, it’s not necessary for the vessel to reach high speeds before it lifts above the water. The upshot is that this configuration can also be maintained at low speeds, including in the middle of a city or a commercial port. Indeed, the small lateral hulls resting on the water enable the upper section of the vessel to rise and remain risen above the water, whilst keeping the main hull fully balanced.
“When foilers sail, especially those with immersed foils, they can abruptly land on the water for a variety of reasons, perhaps some sort of failure or a rogue wave, and therefore have an accident”, explains Massimo Verme, “with GerrisBoats, firstly it’s possible to ‘lift off’ at a lower speed, but in addition the small side hulls allow for a soft landing, therefore, when the vessel brakes and comes back down to the water, the impact is a minor one. This is the key feature that makes all the difference when transporting passengers. Traditional foilers really can’t be used for this purpose.”
Finally, the ability to lift off the water and remain balanced is also useful for transporting disabled passengers: through lifting the hull, the platform can be brought to the exact height of the jetty, thus making it easier to board the vessel.
The future for taxis in cities of water like Venice, particularly now that significant investment is going into renewing the fleets and making them more sustainable, could be shaped by this project. Through self-financing and partnerships with various companies, GerrisBoats is growing fast, and autumn could see the start of the initial prototype development phase.
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