The Van Trump Report

Cargill Tests New Wind-Powered Ship Technology

Cargill recently chartered a Mitsubishi Corporation vessel that has been retrofitted with a technology called “WindWings,” an advanced wind-assisted propulsion system that could cut fuel usage by as much as 30%. The solid wing sails were developed by UK firm “BAR Technologies” and manufactured by “Yara Marine Technologies.” If the trial succeeds, Cargill intends to add the WindWings to more vessels.

Using wind to power ships is obviously not a new idea but BAR’s “sails” are far from anything used by sailors in the past. The 123-feet high sails are made from steel and glass composite, and fold on deck when needed to enter ports or avoid collisions and obstructions. While WindWings can be optimized for new builds, it’s notable that the technology is also suitable for retrofit on existing bulkers and tankers. More than half of the worlds bulk shipping vessels are nine years or older.

The ship Cargill has chartered is among those older vessels. The five-year-old “Pyxis Ocean” is an 80,000-ton Kamsarmax bulk carrier that was retrofitted with two WindWings. BAR says the two sails will save about 1,095 tons of fuel per year, which is almost 20% of what a Kamsarmax ship typically consumes. That fuel savings would rise to around 30% for a Kamsarmax with three WindWings. According to Yara, giant crude carriers could install up to six WindWings.

The full system combines sailing principles with automated control systems, reducing the energy demand on a vessel. Consequently, this lessens the load on the engines and helps further decrease fuel consumption. BAR developed its sails around the most common vessels sizes and typically either 3 or 4 WindWings will be deployed. The company intends to develop other sizes in the next year but notes the need to be mindful that economics also play a very large part in this direction.  

WindWings developer BAR Technologies has an interesting background. The company is actually an offshoot of British competitive sailor Sir Ben Ainslie’s 2017 America’s Cup team. “We always wanted to do things a little differently and spin a technology company out of the America’s Cup campaign,” BAR Technologies CTO Simon Schofield explains. “We wanted to absorb the DNA of the race team: the IP, the tools, and the engineers. Fortunately, we can now apply it elsewhere in the marine industry.”

The Pyxis Ocean is currently on its maiden voyage from China to Brazil and may even deliver a cargo of grain to Denmark, according to Jan Dieleman, president of Cargill’s ocean transportation business. Throughout the journey, Cargill and its partners will evaluate the performance of the WindWings to tweak the design and function for scalability across not only Cargill’s fleet but the entire industry.

The Pyxis Ocean is one of only 23 vessels now equipped with some type of wind propulsion technology. Of the 110,000 new-build order vessels, less than 100 currently include wind-assisted technology. There are only about a dozen wind propulsion systems on the market, although at least seven more are expected to come online before the end of 2023. Some of the others include Helsinki-based Norsepower Oy’s rotor sails, tire company Michelin’s inflatable and retractable automated wing sail, and Netherlands-based Econowind BV’s “Ventifoil” suction-based device.

Check out a video that provides more details about the WindWings technology and Pyxis Ocean project HERE. (Sources: Bloomberg, CNN, Quartz, Marine Log)

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