What its makers say is the world’s biggest boat powered by the sun has been unveiled in Germany ahead of its planned circumnavigation of the globe next year – the first under solar power.

“This is a unique feeling to see in front of me today a boat which I so often dreamed about,” Raphael Domjan, the boat’s future skipper and initiator of the project, said on Thursday.

The sleek, 31 metre by 15 metre catamaran PlanetSolar, 35 metres by 23 metres when flaps at the stern and the sides are included, will be “silent and clean”, say its makers, also called PlanetSolar.

The vessel will be able to achieve a top speed of about 15 knots, equivalent to 25 km/h, and can accommodate 50 people on its round-the-world voyage, its Swiss-based makers say.

The futuristic-looking vessel is topped by 500 square metres of solar panels, with a bright white cockpit sticking up in the centre.

Constructed at the Knierim Yacht Club in Kiel in northern Germany, its state-of-the-art design also means it can slice smoothly through the waves even in choppy waters.

PlanetSolar will be launched in late March before starring at Hamburg port’s 821st anniversary celebrations in May and undergoing testing between June and September. The world tour will start in April 2011.

PlanetSolar says it wants to use the voyage primarily to promote solar power and other non-polluting sources of energy, and to show what can be done.

“PlanetSolar wants to show that we can change, that solutions exist and that it isn’t too late. Future generations are looking to us; our choices will mark the future of humanity,” it said.

The two-person crew on the 60-tonne PlanetSolar plan to stick as close as possible to the Equator to maximise the amount of sunlight to power the vessel.

The roughly 40,000-km journey is expected to last about 140 days, with organisers assuming the boat can keep up an average speed of about eight knots.

The planned route foresees the boat crossing the Atlantic Ocean, slipping through the Panama Canal, crossing the Pacific and then the Indian Ocean, before passing through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.

Stopovers are planned along the route including in New York, San Francisco, Darwin in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Marseille in southern France.

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