Photo: Image credit: Port of Newcastle

World’s 1st bulker powered by wind sails into Port of Newcastle

Image by Port of Newcastle

The world’s first bulk carrier to be partially powered by wind, the Shofu Maru, sailed into the Port of Newcastle this morning on its maiden voyage.

The 100, 422 dwt bulker, owned by Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), was delivered on October 7, 2022. The vessel is the first of its kind and it heralds a new era in modern shipping as wind propulsion marks its return as a sustainable power source.

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Shofu Maru is fitted with the so-called Wind Challenger system,  a telescoping hard sail that harnesses wind power to propel the vessel.

The system converts wind energy directly to a propulsive force. 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 (55 meters in length) adapting automatically to the wind conditions on board as it can rotate 360 degrees.

The vessel was greeted in the Port of Newcastle by a delegation of port officials and diplomatic dignitaries, including Consul-General of Japan in Sydney Tokuda Shuichi, Deputy Secretary of Safety, Environment and Regulation at Transport for NSW Tara McCarthy and MOL Managing Executive Officer for East/South East Asia and Oceania Nobuo Shiotsu.

“Port of Newcastle is pleased to join Port Authority of New South Wales in welcoming the vessel to our beautiful (and rainy) city, alongside the Consul-General of Japan in Sydney Tokuda Shuichi, Deputy Secretary of Safety, Environment and Regulation at Transport for NSW Tara McCarthy and MOL Managing Executive Officer for East/South East Asia and Oceania Nobuo Shiotsu,” the port authority said.

The 235-metre-long Shofu Maru will transport coal mainly from Australia, Indonesia, and North America as a dedicated vessel for Japan’s electric services company Tohoku Electric Power.

The vessel will now be loaded with its coal shipment, before it departs Newcastle on Tuesday.

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.

MOL is also looking into 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%.

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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.