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Wind propulsion: driving shipping’s decarbonisation

With global shipping accounting for around 3% of greenhouse gas emissions, decarbonisation is at the top of the sector’s agenda, a transition expected to cost $1.65trn, largely because of the infrastructure needs for low-carbon fuels.

To keep costs manageable and stay competitive, owners of bulkers, tankers, containerships and other vessels need a solution they can trust, and wind propulsion systems (WPS) hold great potential, according to proponents.

Why wind propulsion?

Wind propulsion technology is maturing rapidly, with tests of prototype sails, rotors, wings and kites continuing worldwide. These tools aim to reduce fuel consumption, operating costs and carbon emissions over all, or part, of a ship’s journey.

WPS can deliver a 22% reduction in carbon intensity — and fuel savings of between 3% and 12% — when paired with speed reduction measures. In combination with existing propulsion systems, WPS improve reliability and reduces emissions of CO2, sulphur oxide (SOx), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter.

The technology is promising not only for shipowners, but also for their clients looking to reduce Scope 3 emissions, decarbonise their value chains, and stay competitive.

Facing challenges, head on

Before investing in WPS, owners must anticipate certain design and operational challenges.

These include:

  • Safety and stability: WPS will affect the stability of a vessel and can cause pitching in rough seas. Hull shapes and stabilising equipment must be adapted to the vessel’s new specifications.

  • Space: some WPS, such as large sails, will take up deck space, an important consideration for operators of smaller vessels.

  • Capex/Opex: operators should weigh the relative pay offs and costs of retrofits. Potential fuel savings for a vessel must outweigh installation expenses, and maintenance of the WPS should not be too costly in terms of Opex and downtime.

  • Crew training: novel solutions require novel safety protocols. Crews, even longstanding, must receive additional training to be prepared for changes in the ship’s behaviour.

  • Regulations: the IMO has yet to detail global WPS standards for commercial vessels. Classification societies must bridge this gap and create safety recommendations tailored to the unique requirements of this new technology.



Classification: the way forward for WPS

Despite the challenges, trailblazing shipowners and operators are investing in WPS, with the support of classification societies.

Recently, HD Hyundai Marine Solution, TotalEnergies and Mitsui OSK Lines ran a successful WPS joint development project with Bureau Veritas. They implemented wingsails and a rotor sail system on a VLCC and an LNG carrier.

Bureau Veritas provided an Approval in Principle to that cutting-edge project. This confirms that WPS are not only suitable for use on large vessels, but in line with existing classification regulations. Involved in this promising technology from the start, Bureau Veritas will leverage its experience and collected data to support future WPS projects.

Bureau Veritas also classed Canopée, the first modern wind-powered cargo ship with four wingsails. The ship will be dedicated to the transport of the Ariane 6 launcher from Europe to French Guiana and had its wings installed in August 2023.

Bureau Veritas has developed dedicated notations for WPS (WIND PROPULSION -1 and -2), as well as the Wind Propulsion System – NR 206 Rule Note. The notations constitute a key classification framework for this developing technology. They address the design, construction and operation of WPS, and their safety and performance credentials.

Working with an independent classification body helps build trust between partners on a project, and more broadly in WPS technology. They enable innovators to demonstrate the viability, safety and reliability of their WPS projects and begin to market them to their clients with confidence.

More information is available at: marine-offshore.bureauveritas.com

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