Is the Future of Ocean Shipping… Sails?

Sails. Are they the Future of Ocean Shipping?

The Pyxis Ocean sets sail with a new kind of sail.

It’s no secret that ocean shipping requires a significant amount of fossil fuels. A single ocean freight ship can produce as much exhaust as nearly fifty million cars. 

That may change with the introduction of Mitsubishi Corporation’s Pyxis Ocean, chartered by US global food corporation Cargill. This ship is the first of its kind to use so-called “wind propulsion” units.

Called WindWings, these large wing sails measure up to 123 feet tall. They can be added to the deck of most commercial shipping vessels, making retrofitting existing ships easy. Produced by industrialization partner Yara Marine Technologies, they are expected to generate average fuel savings of up to 30 percent.

And if you want to really see how they function, try the interactive animation they have available.

Sails? Hope for the Future 

President of Cargill’s Ocean Transportation business, Jan Dieleman, gives more insight into the technology and expresses hope for the future:

“The maritime industry is on a journey to decarbonize—it’s not an easy one, but it is an exciting one. At Cargill, we have a responsibility to pioneer decarbonizing solutions across all our supply chains to meet our customer’s needs and the needs of the planet. A technology like WindWings doesn’t come without risk, and as an industry leader – in partnership with visionary shipowner Mitsubishi Corporation – we are not afraid to invest, take those risks and be transparent with our learnings to help our partners in the maritime transition to a more sustainable future.” 

Retrofitting and New Hull Designs

Reducing dependency on fossil fuels is a high priority for transportation companies around the globe. More than building new ships, the ability to quickly and easily apply new solutions to the existing fleet is vital. 

The WindWings project is designed to help the shipping industry meet zero-emission targets, even with the current aging fleet (more than half of the world’s shipping fleet is more than nine years in age). This first WindWings voyage will be closely monitored to improve performance and design. Once the technology is proven, the companies involved will scale and apply WindWings to many more ships over the next few years. In addition, research is being conducted on how to redesign shipping hulls to take greater advantage of wind power. 

Sails – An Old Solution to New Problems 

Using the wind to help power ocean-faring vessels is certainly nothing new. However, in this age of climate change, we’ll need bolder alternatives to fossil fuel use. A new generation of sailing is upon us. It may not solve every issue, but fuel use reduction will inevitably help the planet – as well as saving money on fuel. 

For a deeper dive into WindWings – listen and read the article on NPR.

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