Tomislav Uroda wants to connect the islands with electric ships
November 8, 2021 – The idea of connecting Croatia’s many islands with an electric vessel, which is much more environmentally friendly and sustainable, has been in the works since 2010. The man behind the iCat project spoke to portal on his ideas and projects.
As Morski writes, the vision of a modern and economical fleet of ships connecting Croatia’s many inhabited islands to the mainland has been in Tomislav Urod’s head for over ten years now.
He began to think about it as a young shipbuilding engineer, disappointed with the condition of ships carrying passengers across the Croatian Adriatic. He started turning his dream into reality in 2011 by founding iCat. To date, he has developed several types of solar and electric boats, and recently gained media attention as one of the signatories of the initiative to build an Adriatic fleet of 21 “green” catamarans.
Uroda revealed in an interview for tportal how realistic it is for this to materialize and happen, what iCat is currently facing and what their future business plans are.
iCat has sold four of its solar boats so far, and its latest job has been with Mljet National Park, to which three BabyCat boats have been delivered, with the last boat being delivered early last year. The contract was worth around 10 million kuna. With the outbreak of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, orders and production have come to a halt. Uroda has since devoted itself to the design of new types of ships and to concluding agreements on the Autonomous Electric Ships for Smart Islands and Cities initiative, launched ten days ago.
Besides iCat, the initiators and signatories of the initiative are the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, the Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Technology Transfer Center and the Nikola Tesla Innovation Center. The initiative envisions the development and construction of 21 passenger catamarans with a capacity of 100 to 300 passengers in three sizes, and one of each model will be established throughout the Croatian Adriatic as part of a pilot project to test the possibilities of individual destinations.
The smaller catamaran would be 17 meters long, seven meters wide and could accommodate 94 passengers. Its value is around two million euros.
We don’t look at him so opportunistically. Here in our country a lot of opportunistic projects have been born lately, because now everyone is trying to grab something green and self-sufficient. We only offer what we know. We have been developing the project since 2010, when we started the first cooperation with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture on the development of passenger ships. Then, in 2015, we did a detailed analysis with the Koncar Institute of Electrical Engineering on the possibility of implementing electric propulsion on such a vessel. The initiative is a logical sequence of everything we have been doing for years, ” explained Tomislav Uroda of iCat.
He added that the initiative has no backers and is the result of long-term development and discussions with various state institutions about what they need and what they will fund over the course of the next budget period.
The Croatian administration is, not surprisingly, very slow …
As none of the ministers were present for the signing, when asked what level of state interest was shown, he said:
The Secretary of State of the Ministry of the Economy and the Director of the Directorate of Inland Navigation of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs were present. Their position is that it will be one of the priority projects for the next financial period. What we heard in the communication with the institutions is that they have 227 billion kuna that they have to spend during the period from 2020 to 2027. It is a very short period and it does not only five years remain, and we can deliver the first ship in the third year of the project. The administration is very slow. The European stimulus package began the same year as the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the idea was for countries to spend money to save their economies. Nothing has happened to or with us so far.
Who should apply for European Union funds?
We expect such a candidacy to come from the top. We do not intend to operate these vessels. We will build them for a carrier who will then request funds. It is the State that must recognize the project and include it in one of its programs, as was the case with Mate Rimac’s initiative to research, develop and produce autonomous electric taxis.
Was Jadrolinija interested in your catamarans?
Jadrolinija didn’t, no, but other private transport companies did. Jadrolinija is a big company and perhaps she is approaching the process with caution.
Can Rimac batteries be used in your ships?
We do not cooperate with him, we import our batteries. Ten years ago Rimac and I discussed the possibility of assembling a drum player for us. He told me; “You do the boat, I’ll bring the battery, and we’ll see what we get.”“However, developing a boat is a bit more complicated than developing a car. A prototype ship is very expensive. You cannot start working in your garage, you must immediately report it to the captain’s office as a ship under construction. Then you are followed throughout the process by the Croatian Shipping Register. They must first approve the design, structure and all equipment of the ship. They come to set up the keel, check the materials that are installed …
Tomislav Uroda also says that between 2009 and 2011 he worked for the Norwegian company CroNoMar.
When I told them about electric boats, they kind of got their noses on it. Why do we need it? they said, when we have oil? But as we in Croatia change our minds, the Norwegians have stepped up their game and they now have the most powerful fleet of electric boats in the world. They build large ships, mainly ferries, which connect the fjords, concluded Tomislav Uroda of iCat for tportal.
For more information, see Made in Croatia.