Designed to showcase the advantages of advanced ship intelligence solutions and hybrid propulsion based on LNG fuel and battery power, the Crystal Blue yacht and its attendant support vessel Blue Shadow have been developed to enable new thinking in yacht design and propulsion by optimizing the yacht's superstructure for greater guest use and comfort.
"Crystal Blue has been designed specifically to show how new technology can meet the yacht sector's increased demand for higher performance, greater operating ranges and increased levels of guest comfort, without impacting the environment," said Oskar Levander, Rolls-Royce SVP Concepts and Innovation.
Taking that guest comfort thing to the ultimate, the concept uses an intelligent dynamic positioning system which automatically controls twin azimuthing thrusters and a TT1100 bow thruster to allow the yacht to remain on station – without using an anchor – but to rotate to follow the sun and ensure sunbathers continually enjoy the "optimum tanning angle" while lounging on deck.
At first glance, the yacht looks like it has no bridge but, says Levander, "it's just been moved."
"Our ship intelligence and remote-control concepts have allowed us to design a yacht for the future that has the bridge located below the bow, inside the vessel," he says. "The crew is able to monitor and control the vessel using sophisticated sensors, cameras, display screens and situational awareness technologies; but an internal bridge frees up the traditional area of the bridge in the forward part of the superstructure to let owners and guests enjoy a panoramic vista that is traditionally only enjoyed by the crew."
The bridge console is based on the Unified Bridge design that Rolls-Royce has already delivered to a number of ship types, including large superyachts. It also features technology demonstrated by Rolls-Royce and Svitzer in the a remote controlled commercial tug earlier this year.
Other features include a "safe room," a citadel in which guests and crew can seek refuge in the event of an unauthorized boarding. Once inside, the crew can override the controls and operate the yacht remotely or direct a shore-based center to pilot the vessel.
Designed for 12+ passengers and 12 crew, the 62 m Crystal Blue is based on a composite or aluminum hull operating a power plant based on the Rolls-Royce hybrid LNG/Battery SAVe-CUBE system configuration.
The machinery consists of twin LNG-fueled 16V4000 MTU M65-N generator sets working in parallel with a battery bank to provide 1MWh of genset-free power during port stays. Two low-weight carbon Azipull thrusters provide propulsive power to achieve maximum service speeds of 20 knots.
Although LNG fuel is increasingly specified for commercial vessels, particularly coastal ferries, the size of the fuel tanks and a lack of LNG bunkering infrastructure has been a major barrier to the yacht sector embracing the cleaner, odorless fuel.
"This is where Blue Shadow comes in," explained Henrik Alpo Sjöblom, Project Manager in the Rolls-Royce Blue Ocean team.
Operating in convoy, Blue Shadow is a smaller 42 m, remotely-controlled, steel-hulled support vessel used for transporting and launching the mother ship's tender, helicopter and any other "toys" that the yacht owner may have. It also allows designers to make better use of the aft area of Crystal Blue for guests, such as by including an infinity pool, or a beach area. The shadow boat also doubles up as the owner's personal LNG bunkering barge.
"Burning LNG has clear advantages over Marine Diesel Oil for the yacht sector," said Sjöblom. "There is no smoke, it doesn't emit any unpleasant odours or fumes and it meets stringent emissions regulations, allowing yachts to enter otherwise prohibited ecologically sensitive waters.
"We have dimensioned Crystal Blue fuel tanks for a range of 3,000 nautical miles without refuelling but with the Shadow's additional fuel capacity, the range increases to 4,400 nautical miles, meaning that most of the typical yachting areas are accessible."
Yacht tender Crystal Blue (top right) not only carries the usual toys, including a helicopter, but can also serve as an LNG bunkering vessel