Wind-Powered Cargo Ships Making A Comeback

  Heads up conscious consumers, word has it, there’s a new technology out there poised to neutralize the heavy fumes from carriage vessels, on the horizon. Business as usual sees anywhere between 50,000 to 60,000 titanic units out there in the big wide ocean at any given time that, should they be combined and ranked in terms of man-made Greenhouse Gas emanations, would be the sixth largest country in the world, plying away on the order’s behalf. Unlike comparable automobiles in the same price range with the Toyota Prius, though, at present time, there is no commercial scale alternative to long-hauling goods with massive sea boats, hence, the purpose of this article is to promote awareness of techs out there with the potential of doing just that one day ! With that, smaller ship sizes, optimized route analysis and planning, centralized command, virtual reality control, self-driving-like assistance systems, and minimized crew size, or in other words, autonomous shipping, are key to a better program altogether. With some concrete aptitudes offered from the IT side of things, taking a look at internal powertrain performance and energy sources, on the other hand, lays the underlying hiccup for by-sea logistics where “70-80% of freight charges are being consumed by fuel costs leaving little for the ship owner or profit”, says Windship Technology Ltd. 
   Windship claims to be developing the Auxiliary Sail Propulsion System (ASPS), a sail power concept that could change cargo shipment by sea as we know it by means of harnessed wind power in a revolutionizing way. Although still at a conceptual stage, the new sailing tech seeks to combine wind power, by means of giant parachutes to towering cylindrical rotors, with winglike sails that can generate 2½ times the power of conventional canvas sails, to tandems with natural gas that together creates a wind-natural gas hybrid system for small cargo ships. Benefits besides emission minimization, “Windship’s Mr. Walker said a Valemax trade route that moves 170 million tons of iron ore a year on 300 large ships can save more than two million tons of fuel oil a year. That is $1.5 billion of fuel.” Should the tech become viable on a commercial scale, would see opulent ship owners from savings alone.
   On the rotors front, though, Norsepower Oy Ltd, winner of 2015’s Energy Efficiency Solution Award in annual Ship Efficiency Awards category, organized by Fathom Maritime Intelligence, is taking the lead. “Wind at sea is a no brainer – it is an eternal free source of power”, stated Norsepower CEO, Tuomas Riski, winning the trophy for its Rotor Sail Solution, a rotor technology that harnesses wind power to propel a ship when wind conditions are favorable, saving both fuel and emissions without sacrificing any power needed to maintain speed. Such rotor sails can be used with both new and existing vessels without incurring significant down time.
   So does every new tech with a promise, Windship is faced with several complications, including funding sources, demonstrating prototypes and models, and lengthy payback periods. Rotor-related techs seem promising with a substantiated savings of about 20%, on the other hand, no wind-based innovation has succeeded to-date as the whole ship needs to be built where Horsepower’s rotors can be applied to existing ships comparatively easy. Safety concerns are in handling during storms, reduced visibility, unwieldy masts that obstruct cargo handling, and maintenance costs and constant route changes. The important thing to note, though, is when International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s reduce emission standards take effect right around 2020, it might be a bit late to realize the types of benefits that these maritime techs bring to the table. According to the IMO, it’s not only that sea cargo vessels consume approximately 10% of the world’s oil, they also litter more than other modes of transportation because they burn bunker crude that is a heavier substance than gasoline or diesel. Sea trans-goers would do themselves a favor to embrace the reality that they will soon be penalized for releasing these types’ of waste in to either thin air or thick water.
   With all aforementioned limitations, yet, another technology has presented itself on the internal powertrain side of things, as carrying the potential of adding the last piece of the puzzle that makes it all work – a Norwegian mechanism that utilizes sky-high container facades in to harness free energy, thereby, enabling the entire unit to act as one big cruise, will be discussed in a separate article. Stay tuned !
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