Wind-powered cargo ship sets sail on the maiden voyage
A cargo ship fitted with special sails set off on its first voyage aiming to study how harnessing wind power can cut emissions and energy usage in the shipping sector.
The maritime industry – which accounts for nearly 3 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and is under pressure from investors and environmental groups to accelerate decarbonization – is exploring a number of different technologies, including ammonia and methanol, in an effort to move away from dirtier bunker fuel. Cargill, one of the world’s biggest ship charterers, has been exploring wind-assisted propulsion as one cleaner energy option.
The wind was a common way of propelling ships before the switch to steam and diesel engines, but is now mostly used only for smaller vessels. “It is risk-taking. There is no guarantee … that the economics are going to work,” said Jan Dieleman, president of Cargill’s ocean transportation division. “But it is up to us to show the industry what is possible and hopefully get some more people confident around this technology.” The five-year-old Pyxis Ocean has been retrofitted with WindWings, large wing sails measuring up to 37.5 meters (123 feet) in height fitted to the deck of the cargo ship.
Dieleman said Cargill hoped to recoup the costs through fuel savings. “If we are not going to get any real surprises, we are definitely going to scale this. The question is a little bit how and when,” he said, referring to other ships the company could build. Pyxis Ocean will sail from Singapore and head to Brazil and is likely to transport a cargo of grain to Denmark, Dieleman said. He added that the vessel is then likely to remain in the North Atlantic area to maximize wind usage.