Michelin’s WISAMO wing sail testing the waters on MN Pelican

Michelin’s Wing Sail Mobility (WISAMO) project has achieved a significant milestone with the completion of the installation of its wing sail on the MN Pélican, a container ship owned by Compagnie Maritime Nantaise – MN.

Image credit WISAMO

The vessel has returned to sea since June, according to an update from WISAMO. The containership is now serving as a test lab for the wing sail as it sails on its regular route from Pool to Bilbao following the ship’s usual commercial route in the Gulf of Gascogne.

In collaboration with the crew and Michelin team, we are testing all the wing sail technical aspects in maritime transport environment with different weather conditions,” WISSAMO said.

The installation of the wing sail on board MN Pélican was launched in October 2022 as part of a collaborative effort involving Michelin, French industrial equipment supplier Start2Prod IMECA, and teams from Compagnie Maritime Nantaise – MN, Michelin Aria, and Michelin Recherches et Technologies (MRT Switzerland). Their joint mission is to test the WISAMO wing sail’s technical aspects in real maritime transport conditions, incorporating different weather scenarios to assess its efficiency.

Designed as an inflatable, retractable, and automated wing sail, the WISAMO system has the potential to lead to up to 20% fuel savings per ship.

The wing is suitable for various vessel types, including ro-ro vessels, bulk carriers, gas carriers, and tankers. It can be integrated during the ship’s design phase, serve as original equipment, or be retrofitted onto already operational ships. Its retractable feature allows for seamless navigation in ports and under bridges.

The partnership agreement between Michelin and Compagnie Maritime Nantaise – MN was initiated in June 2022, marking the beginning of the installation project. The MN Pélican, chartered by Brittany Ferries, operates two weekly rotations between Poole (Great Britain) and Bilbao (Spain).

This installation presents a crucial opportunity for Michelin to put the WISAMO wing to the test in actual commercial maritime conditions, taking the technology a step closer to its industrial development phase. Positive outcomes from these trials could lead to the exploration of larger wing sails.

Prior to this commercial installation, Michelin tested the prototype on Michel Desjoyeaux’s sailboat, conducting successful trials between June and December 2021 on Lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Buoyed by these favorable results, WISAMO progressed to the second phase of more extensive tests, assessing its performance under winter maritime conditions in the Bay of Biscay.

The wing sail system has won approval from the DNV classification society. DNV said that its approval was awarded in line with the WAPS ST-0511 standard, which provides a framework for the verification and certification of wind assistance propulsion systems.

Wind propulsion is gaining traction as a promising solution in the maritime industry, offering the potential to enhance vessel efficiency, save fuel, and contribute to a greener environment. According to the International Windship Association (IWSA), implementing fleet-wide wind propulsion by 2050 could unlock an astounding $1 trillion in fuel savings.