The scale and intensity at which marine ecosystems continue to be destroyed by human activity is creating an increasing urgency to act in the interests of the natural world. Direct, physical confrontation where marine life are injured by boating collisions can devastate populations whilst habitats can be washed away through busy shipping lanes eroding the shoreline.
Whilst we have become well aware of the environmental issues faced, taking collective steps as a global community to stop the scientific doomsday clock, there is still so much to overcome. Rising Sea levels, new sea routes, developing destinations, and geo-politics suggest even more vulnerable underwater inhabitants may find themselves in the crosshairs of human activity.
In 2018 15% of all Manatee deaths were directly attributed to boat strikes in what was nearly a record-breaking year for these graceful creatures for all the wrong reasons. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that 119 of the 804 manatees died through boat impact which can occur through these slow-moving animals coming into contact against the heavy hitting hulls displaced under the water's surface or by getting caught up in the boat's propellers. The total Manatee population has actually seen a decline from 6,620 in 2017 down to 6,131 found in Florida's state waters.
High speed boats and ferries also impact their environments by eroding the banks which they move through. The 1994 study conducted by Nanson et Al showed that wave heights as low as 30cm would bring with it sediment erosion on almost all banks. Speed, size and boat draft all effect the wave height observed. In vulnerable areas of natural importance there has been a significant drive towards regulation and protection through restricted access or speed limits. However, this does not stop all erosion whilst also impacting the efficiency of travelling through the areas.
The unseen effects of human activity such as noise pollution has also caused massive problems to the life under the water. Noise originating from shipping has brought harmful effects such as behavioural change, haemorrhages, and even internal organ damage leading to health and quality of life degradation.
Pollutants and dangers from conventional marine vessels such come in countless forms, many of which we might not even be aware of. Through the innovative and unconventional, solutions could be offered.
The complexity of modern-day human activity at odds with the natural complexity of life mean there are no quick, simple fixes. To provide, primarily, a practical solution for accessing inaccessible locations in a direct course of action there are key features found with hovercraft that offer a solution to problems faced. These benefits come from the way hovercraft function. A pressurised zone of air is created by lift fans to raise the crafts hull above the surface separating it from the environment below. Most hovercraft therefore have a PSI of 0.2-0.36 PSI. In comparison the average person's footprint when walking is 4-5 PSI.
The large 12000TD craft using the most modern mechanical and electrical technical innovations found in a hovercraft today can carry 12 tonnes of payload over 1.5 meters above the surface. There is no displacement of craft in the water and the hull is not in contact meaning marine life are left alone to flourish and thrive. The two engines which provide power for lift and thrust in hovercraft like the 12000TD are fully contained and isolated internally within the hull and therefore are isolated from having an impact on the ecosystems the hovercraft may be passing over. This has a very marked reduction in the sound transmission into the water reducing noise pollution. This minimal amount of contact with the water also means the wash created when travelling at high speeds is negligible. Consequently, there is no erosion of shorelines and a coast's natural defences of mangroves and swamps do not need to be dredged as the hovercraft will pass over the vegetation without damaging flora or fauna.
These environmental benefits work alongside the practical benefits of being able to operate at high speeds on the most direct route reducing response times and operational costs. Marine environments coexist with hovercraft in a sensitive manor without being disturbed whilst users can receive fast, efficient travel bringing a mutually beneficial transport network with our natural world.