Looking for consulting for a unique project

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by congoriver, Jun 15, 2007.

  1. congoriver
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    congoriver Junior Member

    I'm not sure whether this is the right spot to ask, but I'll try anyways.

    I'm working on a unique development project that aims to establish a small river transport industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo based on local boatbuilding and the use of biofuels.

    The Congo river and its tributaries form a network of navigable waterways 9,000 miles (14,480 km) long. This system is the spine of the country and is used by hundreds of thousands of people for (small) trade and transport. It drives the socalled 'informal economy'. However, the country's infrastructures and especially its inland ports and boats are in a very bad state. The river is not maintained. The economic consequences are disastrous. Communities no longer move any goods and are cut off from the outside world. They now belong to the poorest people in the world.

    Currently, the only boats that operate on the river are pirogues (canoes) and slow barges that often get stuck because of fuel shortages or sandbanks. A 500 km trip can take several months. It will take a very long time to rebuild a large-scale, working inland waterway industry, funds for which are currently not available. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of poor people are looking for an alternative they do not find.

    A nice overview of life on the river can be seen in this clip, from the movie Congo River (we have no connection with that movie):
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=cHzYsj8rZp0

    The goal of our project is to kickstart a boatbuilding industry, preferrably relying on locally available materials and based on a protocol that can be replicated and spread amongst communities. We are especially interested in the utilisation of biofuels, in particular pure palm oil, that can be used in unmodified diesel engines and that is less costly than diesel fuel.

    An ethnographic study assessing the logistical needs of small river communities and the available resources will be carried out later this year, after which the precise boat building protocol can be designed.

    If you are an experienced boat designer/consultant interested in this unique design opportunity that will soon be available, please contact me with your details at:

    jvandenberg [at] biopact.com

    Other suggestions are welcome too, do not hesitate to share them here in the forum.

    Kind regards,
    Jonas Van Den Berg
     
  2. la cage
    Joined: Feb 2007
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    la cage Junior Member

    If I can help, I would be glad to.
    Cheers Peter, Bourne Boats.
     
  3. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    messabout Senior Member

    There is, or was, an international agency that concerned itself with issues similar to that which you describe. I can not remember the name or contact information but the word "agricultural" was part of the name.

    Several years ago, Wooden Boat Magazine did some coverage of this subject. I have the impression that the agency was based in England. The thrust of the magazine article was about appropriate sails for various working boats in southeast Asia and elsewhere.

    Wooden Boat Mag has also done a considerable number of articles about boatbuilding in third world countries. I think that you could contact them advantageously for more information. I suspect that they might very well work with you.

    Perhaps one of our Brit forum members know of the agency.
     
  4. BillyDoc
    Joined: May 2005
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    BillyDoc Senior Member

    Jonas,

    I would expect that you will be able to find a great deal of, and hopefully sufficient, expertise right here, I know that I will help if I can. The problem is, we really have very little idea what resources are available to work with. The water we see in the video, but what woods are available for construction, what is the level of local expertise in working with these woods, what is available as scrap metal (for example) that might be used in some fashion, what are the indigenous industries that might be applicable . . . you see what I mean. As for using Palm Oil for fuel, this is quite possible either directly or by refining it into biodiesel . . . again, depending on how it will be used and what is available locally. For example, I suspect that Sodium Hydroxide could be extracted from wood ash (as it used to be done to make soap), alcohol is available from all local sources I have ever visited, the two can be mixed and this reacted with Palm oil to make biodiesel, if in fact biodiesel is needed. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiesel_production) Thus, the biodiesel could be made anywhere wood was available, and perhaps clay to make pots. Biodiesel is BETTER than petroleum diesel in most engines. Is this the level of technology we are talking about?

    Please, we need more information!

    BillyDoc
     
  5. congoriver
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    Location: Kinshasa

    congoriver Junior Member

    Hi messabout, thanks for the reminder. Perhaps you are talking about the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). They have had several programmes in the past dealing with local boat design in developing countries, which resulted in the development of booklets and building routines. Some examples:

    http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5649e/y5649e00.htm
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/t0530e/t0530e00.htm

    You might well be referring to another organisation, and it would be interesting to find out more.

    Thanks for the pointer.
     
  6. congoriver
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    Location: Kinshasa

    congoriver Junior Member

    Hi BillyDoc, thank you for your interest and suggestions.

    The problem is that I cannot give out too much information on the scale of the funds that will be available, but the project is explicitly aimed at designing a boat building routine that makes use of local resources and biofuels. The project is in fact a sub-project of a larger programme on improving logistical chains used by rural and riverine communities, and aimed at developing a local biofuels sector specifically tied to river transport.

    A an ethnographic study is underway aimed at assessing the needs of these communities. This study will determine the size and type of the boats in question.

    I put the word about the existence of the project in here, maybe a bit to early, but just to get it out there, to make sure we receive as much interest from as broad a range of experts.

    A dedicated website is in the making that will come online once the first funding round has been completed. There you will find an extensive project description.

    I will of course update you when this happens.

    Kind regards,
    Jonas
     
  7. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Jonas;
    Yes, the FAO was the one I was trying to recall. I see that you are very well up to speed on this project and I wish you all success in your efforts.

    As the project progresses I am sure you will get input from these forum members. Many of them are thoroughly knowlegeable in designing and building water craft of all descriptions. Most of us have never experienced the Congo river so some familiarity with conditions will be essential. There are so many factors to consider in boat design that are critical to the efficacy of a boat type. I suspect that a bit of study about river conditions, on our part, will be useful, informative, and perhaps entertaining.

    Best regards,

    Gene
     
  8. mcollins07
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    Location: Texas

    mcollins07 Senior Member

    Container Cat

    For some time, I have been investigating the idea of using the 8'x8.5x40' steel cargo containers as an infrastructure for a catamaran. Primarily because of the low cost of this material. There are several techniques which might be use to build a fiberglass hull which the metal container sits into. I like vacuum resin infusion approaches.

    Does this idea fit with your vision?
     
  9. MMNet SEA
    Joined: Feb 2007
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    Location: Thailand

    MMNet SEA Junior Member

    Hello Jonas,
    Jim Brown is someone who has specific experience in the introduction of such projects - the Philippines is where much of his work has been adopted.
    If you google "multihull pioneer Jim Brown" you find a number of sites - the one from the Boatshop worth following up with Mike Allen

    Good luck
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2007
  10. skippervs
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    Location: United Kingdom

    skippervs Junior Member

    Hello, Jonas. How do you look at 5 seater WIG boat for your river? AV
     
  11. MMNet SEA
    Joined: Feb 2007
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    Location: Thailand

    MMNet SEA Junior Member

    A long long time ago on the River Congo - I encountered an engine driving very large dugout canoes - this engine was regarded with total hatred by at least 50% of all who came to use it as an outboard on their dinghy (especially the 1st mate)
    It was an remarkable engine for those who understood it's quirky character.

    It was the British Seagull Outboard - On the river they used a 4hp with a 4 blade barge pusher prop. The power of this engine was extraordinary in terms of its ability to push heavy loads against the current.
    I wonder if there are any left ?

    PS http://www.britishseagull.co.uk/
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2007
  12. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Jonas;
    The Congo river project is intrigueing. Americans in general know little about the river and the countries that it serves. Even if we cannot be helpful with the boat aspect, a bit of study will constitute a geography lesson for us. That's a start.

    So far I have studied only a small scale map but the river seems to be a highway to much of Africa. It appears that from its' mouth on the west coast it goes inland into rivers of different names and Lake Tanganyika can be a destination. It also appears that there may be an east coast outlet in Mozambique. A connection to the Nile is also indicated. Is all that true?

    The little that we know about that part of the world includes the impression that there is rampant socio-political unrest. That is of course an entirely different facet of the project.

    The FAO threads that you mentioned show vee bottomed boats that I rejected almost immediately. I do so with too little knowledge of river conditions. In any case my unqualified opinion suggests simple Sharpie type boats. A boat of 10 meters by about 2 meters at the chines could carry something on the order of 5500 pounds with 25 centimeters of draft. Sharpies are among the easiest boats to build and they can be made from locally available woods. The flat bottoms allow them to take the ground for beaching or for chancing upon a shoal.

    There is a Chinese diesel of some 8 or 10 horsepower that is used in the agricultural areas of China. They are cheap and are said to be reasonably reliable along with simple maintenance. These things have been built for a long time so they do have a history. Of course many of them have found their way into boats. A paddle wheel drive may be worthy of consideration. Cheap to build, easy to repair and will operate in shoal waters perhaps better than a propeller. Through hulls are thus avoided. That engine should be capable of driving the 10 meter boat to 10 kilometers per hour or more while maintaining good fuel economy.

    Just some brainstorming going on in my noggin. Lets see if some others will jump in here........
     
  13. kach22i
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    kach22i Architect

  14. JonathanCole
    Joined: May 2005
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    JonathanCole imagineer

    What this situation suggests to me is bio-diesel powered airboats. The advantages would be extremely simple construction (no compound curves), very shallow draught, no props to get tangled with debris or damaged on hard obstacles, a flat bottom that shold be easy to armor with simple-to-replace sacrificial layers. These kind of boats are often chosen for swamps which are basically filled with debris. I am not talking about the American style 500 HP variety. For the Congo, a lo-tech, low power version would be developed. Speed would give way to durability, low-cost and ease of construction.
     

  15. kach22i
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    kach22i Architect

    Good suggestion.

    I'm always looking for a way to use hovercraft, but I don't want to think about fixing a skirt in those waters.

    Not with fish like that.:D
     
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