Mitsubishi Corporation’s new cargo ship is a breath of fresh air compared to the traditional heavy-fuel guzzlers of the commercial shipping industry.
The 750-foot Pyxis Ocean, chartered by shipping firm Cargill, features two giant sail wings that harness the power of the wind to cut fuel consumption and lower carbon emissions.
Designed by BAR Technologies and produced by Yara Marine Technologies, the WindWings sails stand 123 feet tall and are built out of the same hardwearing material as wind turbines. They can be fitted to the deck of new or existing cargo ships and fold away neatly when not in use. On an average global route, each sail can save up to 1.5 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) per day. The wings are also expected to generate average fuel savings of up to 30 percent on new builds, according to Cargill.
Pyxis Ocean is the first vessel to be retrofitted with two WindWings that could reduce daily fuel consumption by as much as three tons. The ship, which has just embarked on its maiden voyage from China to Brazil, will be closely monitored by the team over the coming months to see if it performs as expected. The hope is that the technology can then be scaled up and adopted across not only Cargill’s fleet but the entire industry. Yara Marine Technologies is already planning to build hundreds of wings over the next four years. BAR Technologies is also looking into more efficient hydrodynamic hulls. The latter British engineering firm was spun out of Ben Ainslie’s 2017 America’s Cup team and is thus no stranger to pioneering design.
“If international shipping is to achieve its ambition of reducing CO2 emissions, then innovation must come to the fore,” BAR Technologies CEO John Cooper said in a statement. “Wind is a near marginal cost-free fuel and the opportunity for reducing emissions, alongside significant efficiency gains in vessel operating costs, is substantial.”
It is estimated that shipping is responsible for three percent of global emissions. The WindWings project, which is co-funded by the European Union as part of the CHEK Horizon 2020 initiative, can help the industry reduce its footprint by offering a way to decarbonize both new and existing vessels. The retrofit solution is particularly useful given that 55 percent of the world’s bulker fleets are up to nine years of age.
Wind power is also gaining momentum in recreational boating. French cruise line Ponant recently announced it is building an ocean liner with an innovative sail-propulsion system that will generate approximately 50 percent of running power from the wind. Accor is also working on an Orient Express cruise ship with a patented SolidSail system that can provide up to 100 percent of propulsion in the right conditions. Royal Huisman and Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven have also unveiled superyachts and catamarans with sailing systems. Seems like we can expect to see more sailers on the high seas in the future, then.