Cargo ship powered by wind and gas

Wind-power freights could soon replace large ships that run on heavy oil, reducing pollution by up to 80 per cent, a team of engineers have announced after working with alternative fuels.

The wind-driven hybrid, called Vindskip, was designed by a Norwegian engineer in a bid to cut fuel costs and help shipping companies comply with emission guidelines.

With almost 90 per cent of all goods being shipped internationally, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) intends to reduce the environmental impact of ocean liners.

From 2020 ships will only be allowed to use fuel containing maximum 0.1 per cent sulphur in their fuel in certain areas. However, higher-quality fuel with less sulphur is more costly than the one currently used.

Engineer Terje Lade came up with a solution by designing a ship that does not rely on heavy oil fuel for power but uses wind for propulsion instead, with the hull of the freighter serving as a wing sail.

On the high seas, Vindskip will benefit from free-blowing wind making it energy efficient, while for low-wind passages, in order to manoeuvre the ship on the open sea at a constant speed, it will be equipped with a propulsion system running on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Addressing concerns about the feasibility of wind-powered freights, Lade said: “At angles close to headwind the wind generates a force in the ship’s direction. The ship is pulled forward.

“Since the hull is shaped like a symmetrical air foil, the oblique wind on the opposite side, leeward, has to travel a longer distance. This causes a vacuum that pulls the ship forward.”

The fuel consumption is estimated to be only 60 per cent of a reference ship on average, while the Lade company says carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by an estimated 80 per cent.

To ensure an optimum use of the available wind energy at all times a customised weather routing model has been developed for VindSkip by researchers from Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics (CML).

Considering meteorological data the software uses a navigation algorithm to calculate a route with the optimum angle to the wind for maximum effect of the design.

“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,” explained Laura Walther, a researcher at CML in Hamburg.

The ship is expected to set sail in 2019 if all tests are successfully completed.

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