Greek Business File, January-February March 2019, No. 119


2018 was an important year for the development of wind propulsion systems following on the coat tails of the clear market signal from the IMO when it announced its initial strategy with ‘at least’ 50% GHG reduction target


By Gavin Allwright

The abatement of greenhouse gases (GHG) requires innovative solutions; until recently it was deemed that it was just technically not feasible to decarbonise marine operations and contribute to saving our planet. Although many experts are fully aware of the benefi ts of using innovative wind-based, power-boosting technologies, the wider public considers sails and wind-propulsion as a relic of the past. Quite the contrary, 2018 was an important year for the development of wind propulsion systems following on the coat tails of the clear market signal from the IMO when it announced its initial strategy with “at least” 50% GHG reduction target. The ships we are designing and building today will be operating in a net zero emissions environment before the end of their commercial life, and this makes fi nancing new vessels problematic when banks are anxious about investing in stranded assets. A basket of technologies will be required to propel the fl eet, there is no silver bullet, no “one size fi ts all.” Wind solutions work as part of an integrated 100% renewable powered propulsion solution and this increase in interest is driven primarily by the potential fuel savings. Retrofit option systems can deliver 5-20% in fuel savings with the potential to reach 30%. For optimised new builds, 30% savings and above are attainable.


Wind propulsion technologies


Regarding potential market size, an EU commissioned report studying the market potential of wind propulsion concluded: “Should some wind propulsion technologies reach marketability in 2020, the market potential for bulk carriers, tankers, and container vessels is estimated to add up to around 3,700-10,700 installed systems until 2030.” Flettner rotor wind propulsion systems are alreind propulsion technologiesady entering the market. This system involves a large rotating cylinder, which uses the diff erence in air pressure when the wind hits the rotor to generate thrust. Currently there are six vessels in operation with a combined 14 rotors installed, with four of these vessels coming into the market in the last 12 months and a seventh on order. The largest vessel in this group is the Maersk Pelican, a 109,000dwt LR2 product tanker installed with two 30-metre Norsepower Rotor sails which are estimated to save 7-10% fuel. A smaller rotor sail has also been fi tted to the LNG-powered MV Viking Grace and two more rotors will be fi tted to a Viking ferry/cruise vessel under construction in a Chinese yard.


Anemoi Marine Technologies has successfully installed four moveable rotors on the geared bulk carrier, the 64,000dwt MV Afros, which was recently named ”Ship of the Year” at the Lloyd’s List Greek Shipping Awards 2018. The fourth installation last year was the fitting of the Eco-Flettner system on the general cargo vessel MV Fehn Pollux, funded by the German MariGREEN project under the INTERREG framework of the EU. In combination with route and speed optimisation the saving potential is expected to be up to 20% of fuel costs. These six rotor fitted vessels now operate in most industry segments: tanker, bulker, ferry/cruise, RORO and general cargo. Along with these market developments, last year also saw other large industry players and cargo owners embrace wind propulsion solutions. Τhe Renault Group signed a cargo agreement with Neoline backing the build of two primary wind RORO vessels for cross Atlantic car deliveries being a key component in their drive to decarbonise their supply chain. Neolines’s goal is to begin the construction of the fi rst ship in the first half of 2019 in order to start this new maritime service between Montoir, Bilbao, Baltimore, and Saint Pierre et Miquelon at the end of 2020. Chantiers de l’Atlantique (formerly STX Europe) has released a primary wind propulsion cruise vessel product range named Silenseas, with up to 70% of the vessel propulsion projected to be delivered by wind. The largest of those vessels is the Silenseas 190, a 190 metre long expedition cruise vessel carrying over 300 passengers and 80 crew. They also announced that testing of their rigs will be carried out in partnership with Ponant Cruise. Airbus has also recently announced a substantial investment into towing kites for their delivery vessels with French startup Airseas.


European companies on the front running


European companies continue to make much of the front running, with further progress in sea trials and other project developments. Dutch-based eConowind has recently successfully completed their first sea trials for their containerised, retractable Ventifoil system. The Ventifoil rig is a non-rotating wing, with vents and internal fan (or other device) that uses boundary layer suction for maximum eff ect. In Spain, Bound4Blue has started work on the test installations of their award winning collapsible rigid sail system and these will be retrofi tted to a large fishing vessel and a small converted bulker. On the design front, there has also been signifi cant momentum. In October, UK based Windship Technology launched its Carbon Neutral Vessel Design, incorporating their Windship Auxiliary Sail Propulsion System (WASP), projected to achieve at least 30% fuel savings on bulk carriers and tankers;combining this with permanently reducedengine revolutions, optimised ship design and operations, and topped off with carbon neutral alternative fuels. November saw the announcement that Drax, the large UK based biomass company is undertaking a feasibility study on wind propulsion solutions with the Smart Green Shipping Alliance, a group including LR, Ultrabulk and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Finally, Wallenius Marine announced in December that they will build a primary wind propulsion car-carrier in 2021.

All of these developments by European companies have also added to pressure for non-European projects to move faster in bringing their technologies to market. Last year saw the testing of two wing sail rigs aboard the newbuild VLCC New Vitality by Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (DSIC) and China Merchants Energy Shipping (CMES), jointly established by Sinopec Group, Sinochem Group, COSCO Group and CNOOC. In Japan, there have also been a number of developments; Eco Marine Power, will complete sea trials of their Aquarius MRE and solar sails in 2019 and Mitsui O.S.K Lines (MOL), as part of the Wind Challenger development group along with ClassNK, Oshima Shipyards and University of Tokyo, have also followed on from the success of their land based trials with plans to have the fi rst large vessel fi tted with their retractable wing sails by 2023.


The road ahead is still bumpy


All in all, the commercial success of some technologies is the result of many years of effort, research, investment and visionary work. Nevertheless, the road ahead is still bumpy as any commercial success depends heavily on the differential of fuel prices and savings. Simply put, the larger the spread of the benefit, ie either of the savings due to the use of specialised equipment, ie of consumption, or of the savings due to prices and benchmarks, the wider the market acceptance and penetration of wind-assisted technologies. Moreover, as most ships are built in the Far East and solutions step mainly from Europe, conflicting interests might impede the progress, especially when fi nancing is scarce or linked with wider national interests. Therefore, the recent successes of the manufacturers of wind-based solutions should be carefully further examined by all actors involved in commercial shipping. Optimism is justified and professionalism is required!


Secretary of International Windship Association (IWSA)