Made in Malaysia solar-powered catamaran sets sail

By Ian McIntyre

LANGKAWI, Aug 19 — Nine young marine engineers scored a first of sorts by designing the country’s first battery-powered electrical engine for a catamaran.

In a rare feat, the nine, part of the engineering unit of the tourism cruiseline operator — Tropical Charters Sdn Bhd, converted the engine from diesel-based circuit to one dependent on batteries in order to electronically operate the vessel.

The energy source for the batteries came from the solar power cells installed on the catamaran.

All aged 24, they were led by Langkawi-born Hamieaznuar Hamizan, assisted by Azhar Azizan, Harrie Kamarulzaman, Muhamad Syazwan Shahril from Malacca and Penang-born Muhammad Syafiq A’zmed.

The others were Muhammad Afnan Syazwan Mohd Fuad, Adib Haris, Mohamad Amirul Yusri and Mohd Faiez Suliman.

They were also assisted by four interns from Universiti Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Institute of Marine Engineering Technology in Lumut.

The company was believed to be the first local yachting operator to utilise green technology.

“The conversion took place on our catamaran called Kasi Chan La,” said the Tropical Charters’ owner Datuk Issac Alexander.

He told Malay Mail he gave the task to his in-house engineering team to come out with an eco-friendly model for his fleet of yachts and catamarans at the island.

Alexander amassed a fleet of five large cruise vessels and six small crafts such as speedboats and cabin cruises over the last decade.

“I realised we relied too much on the traditional mode of energy-diesel, which can be costly and harm the ecology. As we are a marine company, we need to strictly adhere to protecting the coastal environment instead of becoming an adversary to it.”

So, early this year, Alexander directed his engineering team to come out with a plan.

Taking cue from what was available through the global yachting network, and the sharing of technical expertise through the Internet, the engineers secured a breakthrough earlier this month.

The catamaran was brought out on a test sail four days ago.

“It sailed beautifully and now I intent to ensure at least half of my fleet can be converted into battery powered engines.”

Alexander intends to launch the catamaran on August 31 to mark the country’s 60th Merdeka celebrations.

He wants to share this achievement with fellow Malaysians, especially if it can inspire the national SEA Games athletes to perform beyond expectations of their coaches, Alexander said.

“It is my team’s small gift to them. If we can design something special, our athletes can also do the same.”

The Kasi Chan La catamaran will be available for tour bookings for either day or sunset cruises around the pristine Langkawi waters.