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August 23, 2023

Wind-Powered Cargo Ship Sets Sail - The Future of Cargo Shipping

Are wind-powered cargo ships the future? WindWings could be the key to zero-carbon shipping!

In August 2023, a wind-powered cargo ship embarked on its first journey across the ocean. The freighter, named Pyxis Ocean and owned by Japanese automaker Mitsubishi, has since travelled through the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.

Equipped with two state-of-the-art WindWings sails designed in Britain, the vessel saves up to 11 tonnes of fuel per day. The company plans to launch vessels with three wings, enhancing fuel efficiency further and reducing emissions by an additional factor of 1.5.

How do the WindWings work?

Each WindWing sail measures 37.5 meters tall, towering over the ship's bridge while occupying only a relatively small space in the cargo hold.

The sails operate fully automated, meaning the crew only need to raise or lower them when additional power is needed.

John Cooper, chief executive of BAR Technologies, the developer of the sails, previously stated: "For global shipping to meet its goal of cutting carbon dioxide outputs, we need to embrace novel solutions. Wind offers an almost cost-neutral energy source, and the potential for emission reductions, coupled with notable savings in ship operational expenses, is immense."

Environmental Impact:

While fuel consumption varies depending on factors including size, type, speed, and weight experts estimate that the shipping industry accounts for approximately 2.1 percent, or 873 tonnes, of global CO2 emissions.

In 2023, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) adopted a strategy to reduce carbon emissions from the shipping industry by 40 percent by 2030. Part of this strategy involves investing in near-zero emission technologies such as WindWings.

Cooper further commented: “In near optimum sailing conditions, during an open sea voyage, the Pyxis Ocean achieved fuel savings of 11 tonnes per day. And while the Pyxis Ocean has two WindWings, we anticipate the majority of Kamsarmax vessels will carry three wings, further increasing the fuel savings and emissions reductions by a factor of 1.5.”

How much fuel does a cargo ship use?

Fuel consumption and energy usage can vary widely based on factors such as size, type, age, speed, and others.

Type of Fuel:

Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), commonly referred to as bunker fuel, is the most frequently used. However, newer ships may utilise cleaner fuels such as Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (LSFO) or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

Fuel Consumption:

Depending on the factors previously listed, a cargo ship could consume anywhere from 60 to over 200 tonnes of fuel per day.

Energy Content:

HFO has an energy content of approximately 40.5 MJ/kg. So, if a ship consumes 63 tonnes of fuel per day, it uses 2,551,500 MJ or 2.55 TJ (terajoules) of energy per day.

Whereas, if it consumes 150 tonnes of HFO daily, it utilises about 6,075,000 MJ or 6.08 TJ of energy per day.

Speed and Consumption:

Fuel consumption rises with speed. For instance, a ship travelling at 24 knots might consume 50 percent more fuel than when travelling at 20 knots.

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