The Manta, the first-of-a-kind ship cleaning up the oceans

Posted on 30 March 2021.

Supported by the ocean protection organization The SeaCleaners, the Manta, a ship capable of collecting and recycling large quantities of plastic waste, should be operational in 2024.

Founded in 2016 by French-Swiss skipper Yvan Bourgnon, The SeaCleaners fights plastic pollution in the oceans by carrying out a range of actions on shore and at sea. Its flagship project is the Manta, a unique ship with the mission of collecting, treating and recycling large quantities of plastic waste.

 

Raise awareness, inform, innovate

To successfully accomplish its mission to protect the oceans, The SeaCleaners relies on three key hubs. The awareness-raising hub leads activities (creation of educational tools, workshops and clean-up operations, etc.) aimed at transmitting knowledge and encouraging action. The scientific hub is responsible for ensuring that all the association's projects are based on rigorous science, and for disseminating and making scientific information about marine pollution accessible to everyone. Finally, the technical unit is responsible for developing innovative solutions for collecting and recycling marine waste.

Manta was born within this technical division. For the team of experts appointed to manage this ambitious project, the aim is to develop the technological building blocks that will equip the vessel – but with the minimum environmental impact.

 

Collect and recover waste

Manta focuses on recovering plastic waste upwards of 10 mm. According to The SeaCleaners, it can collect anything from 1 to 3 metric tons per hour - the goal is to collect between 5,000 and 10,000 metric tons of waste per year. 

The ship is equipped with four complementary features: waste-collecting conveyors, which bring the waste on board; three floatable collection systems to pick up surface waste; two small, multi-purpose collection boats which can pick up both micro- and macro-plastic waste from the shallowest and narrowest parts of the ocean that the Manta can’t get to; and two lateral cranes, which pull out the largest pieces of floating debris.

What makes the project so unique is that around 90-95% of the debris collected will be processed at sea. The chosen solution includes a sorting unit, where waste is separated and packaged manually by operators, and a waste-to-energy unit, which converts it into electricity through a pyrolysis process. Nothing is discarded. Any waste that is not immediately recovered is packaged and stored on the deck or in the hulls. It is either converted into energy at a later date, or entrusted to local waste treatment or recycling plants during stopovers.

 

Green energy 

The other objective of the project is to achieve a high level of energy self-sufficiency, allowing the Manta to operate 50 to 75 percent of the time without fossil fuels. This will be made possible by several onboard renewable energy technologies. In addition to the waste-to-energy unit, there will be two wind turbines, nearly 500 m² of photovoltaic solar panels and two hydro-generators (which are driven by the sail-powered forward movement of the vessel). These technologies will power both the boat's electrical equipment and its hybrid propulsion system, combining sail power (the preferred mode of propulsion) and electric motors.

 

All these solutions will make the Manta a technological showcase for clean shipping and circular plastic waste management. However, it will be a few years before it officially takes to the sea: construction will begin in 2022 with the vessel scheduled to be fully operational in 2024.