Ships Enhanced by Wind Power Improve Shipping

wind enhanced ship

Sails on ships aren’t anything new. Heck, we’ve been following this “new” technology on cargo ships since 2005. It’s time for our almost annual check-in on how modern ships are using an old tech solution to improve their efficiency. Here’s some additional context for you:

It’s been neat seeing this develop over the last 15 years! The hybrid model is working out well and more companies are embracing it.

At the most recognisable end of the wind-assist spectrum are innovations in soft sail systems. The increasing sophistication of automation and route optimisation systems have revived interest in seafaring’s original power source, and there are now a growing number of examples of larger vessels using smart soft sails alongside auxiliary propulsion systems. In one notable development, French naval architect VPLP recently unveiled a design for a 121 metre long roll-on/roll-off (RORO) vessel that will be used to transport components of the Ariane 6 rocket from Europe to Guiana. The ship’s main propulsion system (a dual fuel LNG MDO engine) will be assisted by four Oceanwings; fully automated wing-sails which are each supported by a 30m high mast and measuring a total of 363 square meters.

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Modern Shipping Uses Sails

The shipping industry recently agreed to care about the environment and this led the Guardian to examine how the industry will change. Here at Things Are Good we’ve been keeping an eye on old-school propulsion used on ships since 2005 and one difference now from over a decade ago is the efficiency of hybrid systems. Mixing solar, sails, and other kinds of enhancements with industrial shipping is being explored by all kinds of companies now. In another decade news that ships are more efficient than ever before will likely be standard news – stay tuned for 2028! In the meantime we can envisage what ships will look like and how they’ll reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping industry.

But much could be done more quickly by retrofitting existing ships with technology to cut their fuel use and hence emissions, according to the ITF. Here are just four:

  • Fitting ships’ bows with a bulbous extension below the water line reduces drag enough to cut emissions 2-7%;
  • A technique known as air lubrication, which pumps compressed air below the hull to create a carpet of bubbles, also reduces drag and can cut emissions by a further 3%;
  • Replacing one propeller with two rotating in opposite directions recovers slipstream energy and can make efficiency gains of 8-15%,
  • Cleaning the hull and painting it with a low-friction coating can deliver gains of up to 5%.

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Read more on the Viking rotor sail.

Shipping Industry Finally Delivers on Climate Change

ocean shore

When climate conferences occur and parties sign on to legal agreements like the Paris Agreement some industries are excluded. Historically aviation and shipping have been left out from many climate change agreements which has resulted in both industries being behind the times, inefficient, and down right bad for the planet. Already, climate change is harming coastal nations and these coastal nations usually favour shipping. The impact of increasing water levels, storm surges, and more has led to those shipping-friendly nations to better regulate international shipping practices.

The result is a deal that shipping industry will finally address their greenhouse gas emissions by reducing their emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

Mr Paul added: “This is history in the making… if a country like the Marshall Islands, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change, and particularly depends on international shipping, can endorse this deal, there is no credible excuse for anybody else to hold back.”

The UK’s shipping minister, Nusrat Ghani, described the agreement as ” a watershed moment with the industry showing it is willing to play its part in protecting the planet”.

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A Fossil Fuel Free Freighter

ship
Cargo ships make the global economy work as goods need to be transported around the globe. These large ships have a large impact on the environment due to their fuel consumption and regulations around the ships can be lax.

While the global maritime industry is responsible for three percent of global emissions, it is yet to be subjected to global emissions agreements. With emission levels set to mushroom as more goods are freighted across the oceans, unstable and spiking oil prices also make for an increasingly unpredictable future for worldwide shipping trade.

If we want (and we should) a carbon neutral economy then we need to address this goods transportation issue, and companies are looking into this already. We’ve looked at the issue of cargo ships before and how a giant sail can help lower fuel costs and emissions.

With that in mind, a company, B9, has set out to create a ship that would work without fossil fuels.

“The design process is evolutionary,” Gilpin enthuses. “We’re combining proven technologies to develop a ‘future proof’ technically and commercially viable small (3,000 dwt) merchant dry bulk vessel.”

This holistic design process combines technology transferred from offshore yacht racing with the most advanced commercial naval architecture available, as well as incorporating fuel derived from food waste, thanks to B9S’s sister company B9 Organic Energy.

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SkySails Signs a Deal

In 2007 we looked at SkySails when they were still in the startup phase of their company and today they have signed a large deal with Cargill, a large shipping company. Cargill will use SkySails starting later this year to save up to 30% of their fuel costs.

SkySails are a sails that attach to the front of the boat to help tow a boat along in open seas. The use of a rather large sail helps lower transportation costs while lowering the shipping industry’s impact on the environment.

Plans are in place next December to install one of these giant kites on a handysize vessel of between 25,000 and 30,000 deadweight tonnes, which the company has on long-term charter, making it the largest vessel propelled by a kite in the world. It is hoped to have this system fully operational in the first quarter of 2012.

G.J. van den Akker, head of Cargill’s ocean transportation business, said that “the shipping industry currently supports 90 percent of the world’s international physical trade. In a world of finite resources, environmental stewardship makes good business sense.” A recent United Nations study cited by Cargill says that up to 100 million tons of carbon dioxide could be saved every year by the broad application of the SkySails’ technology on the world merchant fleet.

Read some more here.

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