French engineer, Georges Mougin, was enlisted by Saudi prince Mohammad al-Faisal to work for the venture Iceberg Transport International, to devise a system to tow freshwater icebergs across the Arctic in the 1970’s, but, the idea was dismissed as too difficult and expensive.

However, through the use of the latest 3D technology, satellite data and tugboats it appears the plan may in fact be viable.

According to a report in the Times, French software firm Dassault Systemes approached Mr Mougin two years ago asking to test out his theory.

The 3D system has now shown how through use of a floating geotextile ‘skirt’ a seven million ton iceberg could be lassoed and dragged by a tugboat assisted by the sea’s natural currents.

The skirt works by insulating the iceberg, helping to hold in the meltwater, and it is anticipated that the journey from the Polar caps to the Canary Islands would take around 141 days.

In a blog entry, project director at Dassault Systemes, Cedric Simard, described how real data was used by the engineering team to build the drifting simulation, which enabled them to observe and analyse the sea’s currents and wind power.

Mr Simard said: “What does this mean? Less time and less energy consumed, that is less money spent… and cheaper water!”

It is predicted that a 30 million ton iceberg could provide a year’s supply of fresh water for 500,000 people.

Initial stimulation tests found the project to be unworkable, after the tugboat became trapped in an eddy for a month. However, when the launch date was changed from May to June the mission was successful.

Mr Simard added: “When you’re an engineer, you have to measure your emotions. When something fails, you always know there is a reason.”

It is estimated the actual voyage will cost £6M and Mr Mougin hopes the new evidence will help him raise £2M to fund a trial next year, towing a smaller iceberg from the Antarctic to Australia.

Carys Matthews

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