REGENT’s mission to bring the world’s first commercially viable electric wing-in-ground effect vehicle – the Seaglider - to market is no simple task, requiring a unique hybrid of aerospace, maritime and electric propulsion expertise. To bring this multimodal transportation solution to reality, the REGENT team continues to take shape under the leadership of the company’s founders Billy Thalhiemer and Mike Klinker, amassing some of the brightest and most creative talent from the likes of Boeing, Blue Origin, Oracle USA, GE Aviation, MIT, Virgin Galactic and the U.S. Navy to name a few.
To support this group of innovators, REGENT has assembled an Advisory Board of global leaders with expertise across multiple industries. Advisory Boards are a respected means of soliciting unique and diverse opinions and according to Forbes, can enhance sales, productivity and decision making in a company. But who are the individuals behind REGENT's Advisory Board and what trends do they see affecting the future of mobility? To find out more we spoke with advisory board member Croatian-born shipping executive, Alan Klanac – a Doctor of Science in Naval Architecture from Aalto University, former President of Interferry and now CEO of his own ferry company, Croatia-based Split Express. With decades of experience in the maritime industry we sat down with Alan on his perspective of the transportation networks of the future.
You have enjoyed a long career in the ferry and maritime industry – what sparked your interest in the industry?
“From my early childhood I was exposed to the shipping industry as my father worked in the supply-side of the business. I grew up in Rijeka in Croatia which was then home to the largest harbor in the whole of the Adriatic Sea and a bustling hub of maritime activity and industry.”
“I came to realize I wanted to try myself as an engineer which brought me close to passenger and cargo ships and eventually led to my time at Jadrolinija and thereafter founding Split Express in 2019.”
After founding Split Express just two years later you find yourself in a global pandemic; how have you navigated the challenges and what is your outlook for the future?
“The biggest challenge is uncertainty – when will travel return and in what form? That makes planning incredibly difficult and as a new service provider of course we felt a heavy burden. However, with the arrival and availability of a vaccine and a growing sense of global stability in managing the virus we are optimistic of a return to ‘normal’ tourist traffic in 2022. Now we can start to look ahead, and we see a bright future – effectively a new start for the industry – and with it the potential for a huge increase in traveling numbers. I think people will view shipping options as perhaps a more convenient and less enclosed means of travelling while also looking for individual solutions – smaller vehicles that can be used to travel to your exact destination, avoiding multiple hubs.”
The global mobility ecosystem is undergoing a rapid transformation and consumers are traveling differently than they may have in the past. How do you see the ferry industry evolving to embrace trends like ride sharing, electrification and sustainability?
I think we will see the trend of ‘multimodal transportation’ meaning people will travel through smart systems incorporating different vehicles for alternative legs of their journey more aligned to convenience and efficiency For example, traveling to islands by car – involving multiple legs of driving plus shipping a car on a ferry – is going to become less appealing to travelers when a singular, more environmentally sensitive, and financially sound solution is available. New vehicles such as the REGENT Seaglider will optimize the journey in a single solution and take you directly to your end destination.
Wing-in-ground vehicles, with the ability to cruise over the surface of the sea at height of up to seven meters (23 ft), have not been commercially viable until now. Following a detailed technical review, Split Express was pleased to announce a Seaglider order in August to offer a unique, high-speed and low-cost mode of transportation for our customers. The level of organization and design maturity in REGENT vehicle surpasses anything I’ve ever seen and promises to finally deliver a very innovative and exciting solution. I’m pleased to support the REGENT management team and look forward to working together on the design and the development of this innovative vehicle as an advisor and an excited launch customer.