Wind Powered Freighters?

Wind Powered Freighters?

As emissions guidelines are tightened on international freight ships’ fuel, some are turning to wind power once again to reduce fuel costs and drastically cut back on harmful emissions.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) recently introduced emissions guidelines for the world’s ocean liners, restricting the amount of harmful pollutants allowed in fuel and requiring freighters use a much cleaner, but more expensive, alternative. As international shipping accounts for the transportation of 90% of all goods in the world, it’s clear why the need to reduce emissions is present – also clear, however, is the fact that rising fuel costs in international shipping will have a significant impact on economies worldwide.

As shipping companies around the world are scrambling for answers on how to reduce fuel costs while complying with the new emissions guidelines, one Norwegian company has found its answer in the wind.

Norwegian engineer Terje Lade, managing director of the company Lade AS, has designed an innovative new type of freighter that does not use heavy fuel oil, but instead utilizes wind for propulsion. He calls his wind-powered freighter the Vindskip.

Inspired by sailboats and aerospace engineering concepts, the Vindskip runs on an environmentally friendly and cost-effective combination of wind and liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative to heavy fuel oil. On the high seas, the freighter’s hull serves as a wing sail, with its symmetrical air foil shape creating aerodynamic lift that pulls the ship forward. For low-wind passages, the use of LNG allows the Vindskip to maneuver while maintaining the same constant speed of up to 18 to 19 knots, just as fast as conventionally powered ships.

In order for the ship to operate with maximum efficiency, it is important that the available wind energy is utilized in the best way possible. Researchers from Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services (CML) have developed weather routing software for the Vindskip that calculates the optimal sailing route, reducing its reliance on LNG and emphasizing wind power in the freighter’s propulsion, keeping it very energy efficient. Due to its very low fuel consumption and high energy efficiency, the Vindskip is capable of operating on LNG alone, in the worst case scenario, for up to 70 days. In fact, fuel consumption is estimated to be only 60% of that of the average freighter on the water today, and carbon dioxide emissions are 80% lower than the average, according to calculations by the Norwegian company.

“With our weather routing module, the best route can be calculated in order to consume as little fuel as possible. As a result, costs are reduced. After all, bunker expenses account for the largest part of the total costs in the shipping industry,” says Laura Walther, researcher at CML in Hamburg.

Terje Lade predicts that the ship will set sail as early as 2019, a year ahead of the 2020 emissions guideline implication date, but first the ship model has to pass several tests in a marine research model tank. Wind-tunnel tests have already been completed successfully.

The wind-powered Vindskip stands to be the first of its kind, and represents a drastic leap in innovation and progress with regards to both fuel economy and emission control. If it’s any indication of what is to come in regards to ocean conservation, sailors around the world can rejoice knowing that our seas are in good hands.


To learn more about the Vindskip project and keep up to date on its progress, visit Fraunhofer’s website.

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