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Across multiple continents there are places that are difficult or timely to access by conventional boat or road. Following the rollout of the world's vaccine programme against COVID-19 it is crucial that vulnerable people get the protection they need, and the COVAX programme, led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO (World Health Organization) will help facilitate this. However, from a logistical point of view, how can this be done as rapidly as possible to allow countries to begin to return to normality? An example of where a hovercraft solution could assist this program is evident in Nigeria, as proven recently by the medically-configured 2000TD operating there. 

 

The majority of the Covid-19 vaccines in development need to be stored in a freezer at -80 °C to -60 °C then stored in the original package in order to protect from light. Once removed from the freezer, the undiluted vaccine can be stored for up to 5 days at 2 °C to 8 °C, and up to 2 hours at temperatures up to 25 °C, prior to use.

 

The hovercraft itself has the ability to carry 12 passengers (UK Statutory Compliant) and a medical fridge that keeps the vaccines at optimal temperatures for delivery. This is of particular interest to Lagos as temperatures average over 18°C in Nigeria itself. Utilising solar to keep the fridge powered provides a solution that is both environmentally friendly and effective for the citizens of Lagos. 

 

Last week’s demonstration in Lagos, departing from LASWA’s jetty and taking in community boarding points around Lagos Lagoon, proved all of these points during the six-hour sea trials in the shallow waters, flying over the persistent problems of weed and debris in the water, sand banks, sand dredging pipes and fishing nets where conventional displacement boats were shown not to be able to follow. This is a project that the BISEN consortium members have been working on with its clients for around five years to navigate the challenges of licencing, exporting, customs clearances, commissioning and finally seeing the first hovercraft in action on the waterways.As we approach 2020 the Coast Guard is now in an excellent position to ensure a stronger than ever effectiveness over the shallows of the Yellow Sea.

 

Nigeria has many needs, matched with a willingness to work with international partners to improve the lives of its citizens.  This has been clearly evident in Lagos where we have seen true cooperation from many stakeholder groups including the Nigerian Navy Dockyard Limited, Joint Maritime Security Training Centre, National Primary Healthcare Delivery Agency, Lagos State Waterways Authority and British Deputy High Commission to name a few.

 

These points matter because Lagos relies heavily on an over-burdened road network with old and often smoking vehicles, nose-to-tail for miles creating long delays and exhausting commutes which does nothing for the air quality or the consequences on both short and long term public health.  The benefit of the passenger ferry hovercraft, which has far greater capacity than the model demonstrated yesterday, is that it has years of proven pedigree in service under the toughest UK and International Maritime Organisation regulatory scrutiny. It  can provide immediate relief to the congestion and hence take cars and buses off the road.  The 12000TD hovercraft offers airline style passenger comfort with speedy straight-line connections between communities and businesses, delivering its passengers still feeling fresh and ready-to-go for a productive day.

 

The 12000TD hovercraft will open new and faster routes without the need for dredging and without necessarily taking up the limited space on jetties and pontoons that displacement boats require.  They are equally capable of landing on a beach and their wheelchair-capable bow ramps allow for very rapid loading and unloading of passengers of all physical abilities.

Its more than just a hovercraft and the direct employment it creates though. The introduction of the hovercraft brings other benefits such as the construction of a support and maintenance base, secure waterways transport, smooth high-speed medical transport, emergency pollution and rescue response, and its operating base not only provides the training centre but draws on green power generated from rubbish cleaned up from the waterways.

 

This has been a whole team effort involving several BISEN consortium members including Clearwater Dynamics, Weatherhaven, SSI Ltd, Geodyn and of course Griffon Hoverwork Ltd.  Several of these companies are already in discussions with new business partners in Lagos to develop the sustainable supply chain for long term growth and expansion of their businesses whilst directly contributing to the improved environment and prosperity that Lagos offers.