Wind-powered cargo capacity surpasses 1 mln dwt milestone

MOL/Wind Challenger; Image credit: IWSA/MOL

The latest installations of wind propulsion technology on large commercial vessels have pushed the global cargo capacity of vessels that make use of wind as a renewable energy source over the one million tonnes of deadweight (dwt) milestone.

Currently, twenty-one large commercial vessels have wind propulsion systems installed onboard. By the end of this year, the International Windship Association (IWSA) estimates that wind propulsion technology will be installed on around twenty-five large commercial vessels, representing 1.2 million dwt.

Based on public announcements and shipyard orders made to-date, IWSA also estimates that by the end of 2023, up to fifty large ships will be making use of wind as a renewable energy source with a combined tonnage of over three million DWT.

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In addition to the fleet of large commercial ships sailing with wind propulsion technology installed, ten small cruise ships currently use traditional soft sail technology representing a further 50,000 Gross Register Tonnage (GRT). There are also a growing number of smaller vessels (under 400 GRT) using wind propulsion technology. The number of smaller vessels is likely to grow further next year as more vessels are converted to sail cargo, retrofits on small fishing vessels are undertaken, and a demonstrator vessel is launched in the South Pacific.

The timing of wind-powered ship propulsion passing this pivotal milestone comes in the same week that the industry celebrates World Maritime Day and its theme “New Technologies for Greener Shipping”.

“Wind propulsion technologies are proven to save 5-20% in fuel use and associated emissions when used as wind-assist on motor vessel profiles. The savings potential is even higher for vessels that use primary wind technologies to achieve much higher levels of propulsive energy sourced from wind. This makes wind power a valuable pathway to reducing the emissions of the international shipping industry immediately and over the longer-term. It also offers the potential for enabling a substantial reduction in the carbon intensity of the whole fleet,” Gavin Allwright, IWSA Secretary General says.

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“With fifty wind propulsion system rigs installed to-date on those twenty-one ships, and an anticipated one-hundred rigs installed milestone to be passed by the end of 2023, the price of propulsion technology is coming down. Reaching the one-hundred rigs installed milestone will represent an important market marker for wind propulsion technology in particular.

At this point we can expect a sustained reduction in return-on-investment timeframes, especially if fuel prices remain high. It’s easy to see why wind is becoming an increasingly attractive option for ship owners given its positive financial and decarbonisation potential and the fact that this technology basket delivers on compliance issues, today.”

Wind-assisted propulsion can be implemented on a wide range of ships that have a clear deck area, such as ferries, car carriers, bulk carriers and tankers, while containerships are more difficult to retrofit for the majority of these solutions.

According to IWSA, retrofit wind-assist solutions can deliver 5-20% of the power requirement, and thus the savings in fuel, with the potential to reach 30%. An optimised newbuild vessel has an even greater potential for savings, because wind can be used as the primary source of propulsion.