California startup to introduce hydrofoil-equipped boxships for intra-Asia routes

Photo: Boundary Layer Technologies

Boundary Layer Technologies (BLT), a California-based marine technology startup, has revealed its operational plans and engineering design for a new type of hydrofoiling containership.

The company plans to operate these vessels to establish a low-emission shipping service that can replace air freight along major intra-Asia trade lanes.

Each hydrofoil container vessel will have a gross payload capacity of 200 tons (181 tonnes), a range of up to 1,500 nautical miles, and a cruising speed of 40 knots, which BLT said is twice that of conventional containerships. This performance would enable door-door transit times only 15 to 24 hours slower than air freight, but at 50 per cent of the price, according to the company.

The ship will be powered by green hydrogen and fuel cells, which is stored as a liquid inside its two hulls.

BLT’s proprietary hydrofoil technology will allow the vessel to travel at 40 knots while using a fraction of the fuel that a conventional ship would need when traveling at the same high speed. The company has already completed development of key pieces of the vessel’s technology stack, and is on track to perform full scale sub-system tests by the end of 2023.

At 110 feet (33.5 metres) long and with capacity for 20 TEUs, the vessel is a fraction of the size of conventional containerships.

BLT is currently selecting launch partners for an intra-Asia service launching in the third quarter of 2024 to ship finished goods and components for major electronic manufacturers in the region. It also has future plans to launch a larger vessel on a transpacific service for which it has a US$180 million letter of intent from digital freight forwarder Flexport.

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