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From an early age, Yvan Bourgnon has been fascinated by the ocean and decided to live his dream : sailing. High level athlete and thrill seeker, Yvan won many titles and always tackles new challenges. He has decided to act in favour of preserving marine environment when he faced marine pollution during transats. Along with his association The Sea Cleaners, Yvan Bourgnon chose to put an ambitious technical project : an self-sufficient ship able to collect macro-plastic waste.

What is your project all about ?

The Manta is the first quadrimaran able to collect macro-plastic waste floating on the surface of the oceans on a large scale. She gathers the most innovative technologies in terms of production of green energy. Thus she is autonomous and can be easily manoeuvred even in the most polluted areas.

First, we’ve had to undertake a feasibility study for the ship since she has a very innovative aspect. In last December, a long series of studies finally resulted in the validation of the ship’s construction. Today, we are on a second research stage to assemble all the essential items for the shipyards and the suppliers. A team of 25 people work daily on the Manta.

Beyond this, like you, we have developed an education and awareness centre. We wish to take advantage of the ship’s presence ashore to raise awareness of polluting countries’ government like Sri Lanka, Philippines or Indonesia.

Right now, we are confident in achieving the goals we set at the beginning : three years of studies and two years for the construction in order to launch the Manta in 2022.

What was the first motivation for the project ? What incited you to take action ?

I got a revelation when I sailed around the world. I was directly confronted to macro-plastic pollution. I find that there is no communication enough on this type of pollution and that the tracking expeditions focused only on nanoparticles. Yet, one can easily see that plastic pollution cannot be reduced to microplastic. In addition, studies reveal that rivers overflow with plastic waste. This strengthened our choice to target river mouths to take action, in order to capture great plastic concentrations.

A short time ago, another small element added up : we have established a partnership with an English company who spots plastic waste at sea down to 10 cm thanks to satellite images. This technology will allow us to prepare our routes and campaigns in advance. A great opportunity for us !

What was the major strength of your experience ?

At this stage, the greatest technical breakthrough is managing to make the boat energetically self-sufficient. This is our greatest problem. We have determined a 75% self-sufficiency rate, in the specification. This is very ambitious for a 2.500 tons ship. Today, we don’t have any reference which we could imitate. For example, Planetsolar is a self-sufficient ship but, because of her weight (90 tons), she is not considered as a ‘work boat’. For us, it is out of question to spend diesel to go and collect plastic waste.

Collecting waste is the main task of the project. We chose a conveyor belts system, three between each hull, immersed in water down to one metre. This technology already exists, we just developed it on a larger scale. The main problem is to find the right combination between sails, wind and solar energy to move the Manta forward and provide the electricity needed onboard. This, is the real challenge !

Do you have anything else to say ? Another project ?

I think all this arrives at the right moment, when people, manufacturers, politicians have understand that we need to take action. Of course we should have taken action 30 years ago but, in regards to collective awareness, it is the right time. It is rather positive. Our idea is not to stop after building one boat. On the long term, we wish to create a fleet in order to be as efficient as we can and to share the vessel’s plans so that this project can widely inspire people around the world.

Marine pollution is an issue against which Surfrider fights, mainly through its flagship program Ocean Initiatives aiming at raising awareness. Today, the Manta is a wonderful initiative to collect macro waste at sea but but remains an alternative problem. It is necessary to reduce waste at the source, introducing a change of behavior for both consumers and industrials.

To get more information about marine pollution watch our Ocean Report :