Solar vessel security in the Gulf of Aden

Apr 18, 2012
<p>Planet Solar along the Thai coast (click image to enlarge). </p>

Planet Solar along the Thai coast (click image to enlarge). 

MS Turanor PlanetSolar is an impressive vessel in its ability to propel itself around the world using only the power of the sun. Now, however, the vessel has reached the mideast and for it to complete its circumnavigation, Planet Solar needs to cross the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea in order to reach the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. Who else does a Swiss-flagged ocean voyaging vessel turn to but the former head of the Swiss army? Christophe Keckeis, will be in charge of security as the solar-powered multihull heads into dangerous waters.

From the press release: Currently docked at Adnec Marina in Abu Dhabi to take part as a guest of honour at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), PlanetSolar, the world's largest solar ship is 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 49,000 km covered using solar energy only, which represents approximately the 4/5ths of its world tour, PlanetSolar is about to start its most perilous stage from a security point of view since the beginning of its expedition. It is under the supervision of the former Swiss Army chief, the corps commander in active retirement Christophe Keckeis, that the solar ship will start going up the Red Sea. 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, 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. Those 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 navigation should last for a few weeks depending on the weather conditions. The preparation can be 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. In addition to the on board crew composed of additional security specialists of the highest level, the protection of the solar catamaran and its sailors will only be possible with the collaboration of other States and partners.

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