Carbon cutter

Cargo vessel marks new era in wind power ships

Pyxis Ocean with WindWings (pic: Cargill)

Wind propulsion is forecast to transform the shipping industry after a cargo vessel fitted with giant, British-designed special wind-powered sails set out on its maiden voyage.

Shipping firm Cargill, which has chartered the vessel, hopes the technology will help the industry chart a course towards a greener future.

The rigid WindWings sails aim to cut fuel consumption and the carbon footprint of shipping which is responsible for about 837 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, equal to 2.1% of global emissions.

The Pyxis Ocean’s first journey will be from China to Brazil – and will provide the first test real-world test of the wind-wing technology.

The 123 ft wings are folded down when the ship is in port and are built of the same material as wind turbines, to make them durable. It is hoped they can reduce a cargo ship’s lifetime emissions by 30%.

Jan Dieleman, president of Cargill Ocean transportation, said the industry was on a “journey to decarbonise”. He admitted there was “no silver bullet” – but said this technology demonstrated how fast things were changing.

The technology was developed by UK firm BAR Technologies, which was spun out of Sir Ben Ainslie’s 2017 America’s Cup team, a competition sometimes called the ‘Formula One of the seas’.

“This is one of the most slow-moving projects we’ve done, but without doubt with the biggest impact for the planet,” its head John Cooper – who used to work for Formula One team McLaren – told the BBC.

He thinks this voyage will be a turning point for the maritime industry.

“I do predict by 2025 half the new-build ships will be ordered with wind propulsion,” he said.

“The reason I’m so confident is our savings – one-and-a-half tonnes of fuel per day. Get four wings on a vessel, that’s six tonnes of fuel saved, that’s 20 tonnes of CO2 saved – per day. The numbers are massive.”

While the wings are a British innovation they are manufactured in China. Mr Cooper said a lack of government support in reducing the cost of imported steel prevents the company from making them here.

“It’s a shame, I’d love to build in the UK,” he said.

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