Wind-powered shipping is back as a quiet revolution sweeps the seas

Positive News | by Robin Eveleigh | August 25, 2023 | Wind-powered shipping | Contact Shield Insurance

A sail-powered freighter is the latest attempt to clean up the shipping sector. Electric ferries are also taking to the waves, but the route to a cleaner future is long

Cutting-edge yacht racing technology has been brought to modern-day cargo shipping in a bid to cut the sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Shipping, largely powered by heavy sulfur fuel oil, spews out around three percent of global emissions. Although wind – not fossil fuels – once powered global trade, sails are impractical on modern vessels thanks to their weight and size.

Until now. 

Wind-powered shipping

Mitsubishi-owned bulker, Pyxis Ocean, weighed anchor on Monday and retrofitted with two ‘WindWings’, designed by British marine engineers BAR Technologies. They’re expected to save the vessel around three tonnes of fuel a day on its crossing from Singapore to Brazil. 

“If you’d asked me two and a half years ago whether wind power would ever again play a significant role in shipping, I would have been skeptical,” said Aleksander Askeland, CSO of Norway-based Yara Marine, which oversaw WindWings’ build and installation. “You need wind to overcome a threshold where it becomes meaningful, and that’s not at all obvious when you have such large vessels to move around. It’s a completely different game to the age of sail.”

BAR Technologies drew on their experience operating in the highest echelons of elite yacht racing to design WindWings, with development funding from the EU and global conglomerate Cargill. 

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