Rolls-Royce, the international engineering group with a large marine industry involvement, has extended its yacht sector presence with a new hybrid-powered concept called Crystal Blue.

The new 62m (204ft) luxury yacht concept has advanced ship intelligence solutions and hybrid propulsion based on LNG fuel and battery power. The Crystal Blue yacht and its linked support vessel, Blue Shadow, have been developed, according to Rolls-Royce, “to enable new thinking in yacht design and propulsion by optimising the yacht’s superstructure for greater guest use and comfort.”

Commenting on the concept, Oskar Levander from Rolls-Royce SVP Concepts and Innovation said: “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.”

An intelligent dynamic positioning system that automatically controls twin azimuthing thrusters and a TT1100 bow thruster is a key feature of the Crystal Blue concept. This is technology usually only found on offshore support vessels that must maintain their positions next to oil rigs to within a couple of meters. For the Crystal Blue, however, this system allows the yacht to remain in the right spot on the water, without using an anchor.

“At first glance, it seems Rolls-Royce has forgotten to include a bridge in the design but it’s just been moved,” says Levander.

“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,” Levander points out. “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 other key feature is the hybrid propulsion system which uses the Rolls-Royce hybrid LNG/Battery SAVe-CUBE system configuration. The system comprises twin LNG-fuelled 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 20kt.

So far, LNG fuel has only been applied to commercial vessels such as coastal ferries, as the size of the fuel tanks and the lack of LNG bunkering facilities have both restrained the yacht sector from using the cleaner, odourless fuel.

The answer provided is the Blue Shadow, according to Henrik Alpo Sjöblom, project manager in the Rolls-Royce Blue Ocean team. He points out that operating in convoy, Blue Shadow is a smaller 42m (138ft) 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,” Sjöblom says. “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 3,000Nm without refuelling but with the Shadow’s additional fuel capacity, the range increases to 4,400Nm, meaning that most of the typical yachting areas are accessible.”

Summarising the concept, Levander says: “With Crystal Blue and Blue Shadow we can more effectively showcase how new digital-based ship intelligence solutions can offer unique possibilities, greater capability and added value to the luxury yacht market, both for new and existing vessels.”

Other features included by the Rolls-Royce Ocean Team include a safe room in which guests and crew can seek refuge in the event of an unauthorised boarding. Once inside, the crew can override the controls and operate the yacht remotely or direct a shore-based centre to pilot the vessel. The Crystal Blue is designed for 12-plus passengers and 12 crew. She is based on a composite or aluminium hull.