Wind powered cargo ship is sailing in step to make shipping greener

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A large red cargo ship called the Pyxis Ocean set off on its maiden voyage this month. But unlike most others before it, this one is partly propelled by wind.

The ship, chartered by the American shipping company Cargill, was modernized with WindWings – large steel sails 37.5 meters (123 ft) high, designed by the British company BAR Technologies, and produced by Yara Marine Technologies.

The suites are expected to generate emissions savings of up to 30%. If used with alternative fuels, developers say the savings will be even higher.

The journey, which started in China and is currently heading towards Brazil, will put technology to the test.

The shipping industry produces more than one billion tons of carbon dioxide each year approximately 3% of global human-caused emissions. In July, the sector pledged to reduce pollution from global warming to net zero “by or around 2050”. Using wind is one way to achieve this. While not a new concept (sailing ships date back more than 5,000 years), new wind-assisted propulsion technologies were appearing in recent years.

Huge kites and rotary technologies were tried on cargo ships in an effort to reduce their dependence on diesel. But according to the Windship Association InternationalToday, there are only about 20 large commercial wind-propelled ships operating.

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Entrance to Cargill – One of the largest agricultural merchants in the world, hopping around 225 million tons of commodities every year – can be impressive.

John Cooper, CEO of BAR Technologies, told CNN the company’s presence is on board was essential in building momentum for WindWings. “They lead the way, and others respectfully observe what they do,” he says.

One of the main benefits of the WindWings project, which is co-funded by the European Union, is that it offers a retrofit solution that can help reduce carbon emissions from existing ships. According to Cargill, 55% of the world’s freight fleets are up to nine years old.

Not only do the suites help reduce the ship’s emissions, but they will also help ship owners meet their new needs Industry norms on energy efficiency, and save money by lowering fuel consumption, according to Cargill. The company says that on an average global route, WindWings can save 1.5 metric tons of fuel per wing per day, with the potential to save even more on transoceanic routes. The company notes that this may become more important with greener use future fuels (such as ammonia and methanol), which are expected to cost more.

Experts note that for wind-assisted technologies to spread, their cost must be matched by the fuel savings they provide.

Wind Wings are made of composite steel and glass. Before the ship enters the port or passes under the bridge, it can be folded on the deck to avoid collisions. These were installed at Pyxis Ocean in Shanghai, before the ship traveled to Singapore, where it was loaded with fuel and officially launched.

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The performance of the wings will be carefully monitored along the way so that improvements can be made to the design before it is mass produced.

Cooper says BAR Technologies already has other contracts in the works, including a vessel chartered by Vale and equipped with four WindWings due to sail from Shanghai in September.

“We look forward to supporting the global shipping industry as it transitions to greener, cleaner propulsion and design,” he says.

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