Watch: MOL gears up for Wind Challenger’s delivery as the system aces sea trials

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Japanese shipping heavyweight Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) is practically counting the days until the delivery of its Wind Challenger project.

Under the project, a hard sail system, known as the Wind Challenger, was installed on board a bulk carrier at compatriot Oshima Shipbuilding.

The system is currently undergoing sea trials to confirm its capabilities at sea, the final construction stage before its upcoming delivery.

As disclosed earlier, the hard sail-equipped vessel is slated for delivery in October this year when it will start transporting cargoes for Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc.

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The Wind Challenger converts wind energy directly to a propulsive force. The Japanese shipping company estimates that the installation of the sail on merchant ships has the potential to significantly reduce fuel consumption, which in turn reduces GHG emissions by about 5-8%.

The sail can be shortened and extended adapting automatically to the wind conditions on board, as shown in the video.

The Wind Challenger Project started in 2009 with the “Wind Challenger Plan,” an industry-academia joint research project led by The University of Tokyo. In January 2018, MOL and Oshima Shipbuilding took charge of the plan.

MOL plans to build a second bulk carrier equipped with the Wind Challenger hard sail system at Oshima Shipbuilding. Under the plan, MOL Drybulk will operate the 62,900 dwt vessel, slated for delivery in 2024. Once completed, the vessel is chartered to transport wood pellets for Enviva, which specializes in the production of sustainable wood bioenergy.

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Furthermore, MOL revealed earlier this year that it was examining the feasibility of adopting rotor sails, an auxiliary wind propulsion system developed by UK’s Anemoi Marine Technologies on the bulker. The combined use of both the Wind Challenger and rotor sails is expected to slash GHG emissions by an average of 20%.

Exploration of the wind-assisted propulsion technology forms part of MOL’s overall decarbonization strategy. The MOL Group has set mid- to long-term targets to reduce GHG emissions intensity in marine transport by approximately 45% by 2035 (i.e. versus 2019) and achieve net zero by 2050.

The decarbonization vision includes the adoption of LNG-fueled vessels as a transitional solution and the company wants to have 90 LNG-fueled ships by 2030. Moving forward, MOL expects that ammonia and hydrogen as fuel would be widely available for its ships in 2035, and that it would be able to shift from LNG to synthetic methane by 2050.