Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Invests in Regent to Bring Seagliders to Japan

Seaglider WIG vessel
Regent plans human flights later this year and introduction of a 12-passenger version by mid-decade (Regent)

Published Jun 30, 2024 12:59 PM by The Maritime Executive


The U.S.-based corporate venture capital firm of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) has become the latest to invest in Regent, a U.S. startup company developing ground-effect vehicles as commercial seagliders. MOL Switch, the U.S. VC firm, will support Regent in bringing the vessels to market in Japan and in coastal destinations around the globe.

“This strategic partnership marks a significant step forward for seaglider market adoption in Japan,” said Billy Thalheimer, Co-founder and CEO of Regent. “Having MOL as a maritime champion for seaglider technology underlines Regent’s market-leading traction in the country and paves the way to bring our high-speed, all-electric transportation solutions to coastal communities.”

Having completed its first demonstration flights with a scale model of the vessel in 2022, Regent has drawn broad interest from the maritime and aviation communities. Brittany Ferries announced in 2021 that it would explore the opportunities for an English Channel ferry service with the crafts while many leading aviation companies have also signed commitments for more than 600 seaglider orders which Regent values at more than $9 billion.

The technology has made good progress with BV issuing the first Approval in Principle (AiP) in 2022. Recently, the company also reported the Lloyd’s Register had joined the effort and would provide consulting services and the certification for the 12-passenger Viceroy seagliders.

Japan the companies report represents a strong opportunity for the technology. They highlight that about 80 percent of the Japanese population lives on or near coastal areas. MOL Switch’s strategic investment in Regent is part of the growing interest in seaglider technology in Japan. H.I.S. Group, one of Japan’s largest travel agencies, JapanAirlines Innovation Fund, the venture arm of Japan Airlines (JAL), and YamatoHoldings, Japan’s largest parcel delivery and logistics company, are also strategic investors in Regent.

The company aims to have humans aboard its 12-passenger seaglider prototype this year and it is targeting bringing the first commercial model to market by mid-decade. The 12-passenger version travels at 180 mph and has a range of 180 miles on a single charge for its batteries. It alternately can carry up to 3,500 pounds of payload or cargo. Regent also has concept designs for a 100-passengers Monarch seaglider for which LR will help to define the rules.

Regent highlights the technology combines the speed of an aircraft with the convenience of a boat. The hydrofoiling wing-in-ground-effect vessels utilize existing dock infrastructure similar to seaplanes. However, they fly at low altitudes. The technology has even drawn interest from the U.S. Marine Corps which in 2023 signed an agreement for the company to demonstrate seaglider technology for defense logistics operations.

Regent reports it has raised more than $90 million from investors which also included Lockheed Martin and Japan Airlines.