Wednesday, December 2, 2020
News Sail-Powered Vehicle Carrier Could Cut Emissions 90 Percent

Sail-Powered Vehicle Carrier Could Cut Emissions 90 Percent

Turning the seas from blue to green, sailboat can move up to 7,000 cars

  • Oceanbird would use diesel only in port

  • Single vessel could cut hundreds of tons of fuel use daily


What’s old is new again as the age of sail returns to the cargo shipping industry. This time a car carrier, called the Oceanbird, that promises to slash emissions for car transportation by 90 percent over conventional shipping.

A project between Wallenius Marine, of of the largest vehicle carriers, Swedish research institute SSPA, and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (KTH), the Oceanbird trades speed for green, and is part of an effort from Wallenius to remove emissions from oceangoing freighters.

It started with a new hull design, developed to offer speed and steering, using a mix of aerodynamic and shipbuilding technology. The current design uses five 80 metre tall wing sails, made from composite and metal. That’s twice the height of the largest sailing vessels today. The sails can be lowered, giving the vessel a 45m total height when necessary, as for clearance of bridges. Diesel engines will let the ship manoeuvre in port and in emergencies.

Able to hold up to 7,000 cars, the vessel would compete with traditional vehicle carriers. The estimated speed of the vessel is 10 knots, and a transatlantic crossing would take 12 days. That’s four days longer than a conventional ship, but a 90 percent reduction in emissions means a massive fuel savings of the heavy oil these massive cargo ships run on.

Sea trials for a 7-metre long model are set to start this fall, and they expect the first full-size vessel to be delivered in 2024. Shipping is estimated to be the source of nearly three percent of global manmade CO2 (the equivalent of the entirety of Germany), and use high-sulphur and high in SO and NOx emissions heavy fuel oil. These ships can burn more than two hundred tons of fuel per day.

If the concept makes production, and Wallenius Marine seems confident, it could massively change the shipping industry, and give our low emission cars even lower lifetime emissions.

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