Wind-powered freighters

Wind-powered freighters
The hull of the cargo ship VindskipTM acts as a large wing sail. Credit: LADE AS

To make ships more eco-efficient, engineers have been working with alternative fuels. A Norwegian engineer is currently pursuing a new approach: With VindskipTM, he has designed a cargo ship that is powered by wind and gas. Software developed by Fraunhofer researchers will ensure an optimum use of the available wind energy at any time.

International shipping is transporting 90 percent of all goods on earth. Running on heavy fuel oil freighters contribute to pollution. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) wants to reduce the environmental impact of ocean liners. One of the measures: Starting from 2020, ships will only be allowed to use fuel containing maximum 0.1 percent sulfur in their fuel in certain areas. However, the higher-quality fuel with less sulfur is more expensive than the heavy fuel oil which is currently used. Shipping companies are thus facing a major challenge in reducing their fuel costs while complying with the emission guidelines.

A new way of reducing , emissions and bunker expenses is being pursued by the Norwegian engineer Terje Lade, managing director of the company Lade AS: With Vindskip he has designed a type of ship that does not use heavy fuel oil but utilizes for propulsion. The highlight: The hull of the freighter serves as a wing sail. On the high seas, Vindskip will benefit from free-blowing wind making it very energy efficient. For low-wind passages, in order to maneuver the ship on the open sea while also maintaining a constant speed, it is equipped with an environmentally friendly and cost-effective propulsion machinery running on liquefied natural gas (LNG). With the combination of wind and liquefied natural gas as an alternative fuel to heavy , the fuel consumption is estimated to be only 60 percent of a reference ship on average. Carbone dioxide emissions are reduced by 80 percent, according to calculations by the Norwegian company.

Weather routing module determines the optimal course

For efficient operation, it is critical that the available is used in the best possible way. In order to calculate the optimal sailing route, researchers from Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services CML, a division of Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML, have developed a customized weather routing module for Vindskip. Considering meteorological data the software for the new ship type uses a navigation algorithm to calculate a route with the optimum angle to the wind for maximum effect of the design. "With our weather routing module the best route can be calculated in order to consume as little fuel as possible. As a result costs are reduced. After all, bunker expenses account for the largest part of the total costs in the shipping industry," says Laura Walther, researcher at CML in Hamburg. For the complex calculations, the researcher and her team apply numerous parameters, such as aero- and hydrodynamic data as well as weather forecasts from the meteorological services, such as wind speed and wave height.

So how is it possible that the Vindskip is being pulled forward? "At angles close to headwind the wind generates a force in the ship's direction. The ship is pulled forward. Since the hull is shaped like a symmetrical air foil, the oblique wind on the opposite side – leeward – has to travel a longer distance. This causes a vacuum at the windward side that pulls the ship forward," explains VindskipTM patent-holder Lade. This makes the freighter move at speeds of up to 18 to 19 knots, hence just as fast as conventionally powered ships. Due to its very low fuel consumption, Vindskip™ can utilize liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel and still be capable – in the worst case – of 70 days of steaming between bunkering. Thus, it can meet all of today's and tomorrow's challenges with regards to economy and emission control.

Wind-tunnel tests completed successfully

The researchers from CML are continually developing the weather routing tool further; the first version has been available since mid-December 2014. By the end of January 2015, the software will be handed over to the company Lade AS. Ship types that are particularly relevant to the VindskipTM-design, for which the weather routing module is developed, are ships like car and truck carriers, big ferries, container ships and LNG carriers. Terje Lade forecasts that the freighter will set sail as soon as 2019. First, the ship model has to pass numerous tests in a marine research model tank – also called a towing tank by experts. Tests in wind tunnels have already been completed successfully.

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Citation: Wind-powered freighters (2015, January 6) retrieved 24 August 2019 from
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Jan 07, 2015
The optimum angle for speed doesn't do any good if the port desired is in a different direction. When hours count on trans-Pacific voyages, I don't think this idea is going to get much traction especially when fuel prices are falling. Sulfur dioxide, while a cause of acid rain and smog, also has a cooling effect- the more that is burnt the cooler the earth becomes.

Jan 07, 2015
After readingthe headline I thought "using wind power (sails) has been already tried in recent year"..but the use of the hull geometry is certainly a novel idea.

The optimum angle for speed doesn't do any good if the port desired is in a different direction

That's why the algorithm doesn't optimize for speed but for length of traveltime to a target port.

Jan 07, 2015
magnus effect sales (otherwise known as spinning tubes) would work even better.

Jan 07, 2015
For you Wal Mart and business haters:

"Efficiency counts when you have one of the world's largest commercial truck fleets. That's why Walmart has developed a new big rig that uses a radical design to increase airflow and cut fuel use.

It's called the WAVE, which stands for Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience. It's a concept truck and trailer that previews the future of long-haul freight, and it's designed by Walmart in partnership with Peterbilt, Great Dane Trailers, and Capstone Turbine."

Market forces, and especially free market forces, motivate real action and research to be efficient. Efficiency improves profits (horrors!).

Jan 07, 2015
magnus effect sales (otherwise known as spinning tubes) would work even better.

Flettner rotors are an intrigueing concept. However, they are maintenance intensive (as are all types of vertical rotors because the load distribution on the central axis is very uneven). This design is fully passive. No moving parts, no maintenance costs.

Large cargo ships also tend to stack cargo containers on deck. To not obstruct rotors you have to build them very high (which is also an issue with stability of the vessel. The stacked cargo containers already raise the center of gravity of some transports to a level where strong seas can endanger the ship...and with wind powered vessels you actually want to go where the seas aren't too calm - as opposed to with oil driven ones.)

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