The company Cargill, which rented the ship, believes this new idea will show the shipping industry how to be more environmentally friendly.

The special sails, called WindWings, are designed to reduce the ship’s need for fuel, which would help the environment. The first trip of the ship named Pyxis Ocean, from China to Brazil, will test how well the WindWings work. This trip is a way to see if using wind power like ships did in the past can be a better way to move things on the ocean without hurting the environment.

Pyxis Ocean launches with 2 WindWings

When the ship is in harbors, the big sails are folded up, but when it’s out on the open ocean, they open up wide. These sails are strong, made from materials similar to what wind turbines are made from.

Using the wind to move these big ships instead of just using engines can lower the pollution they make by about 30%. The head of Cargill Ocean Transportation, Jan Dieleman, president of Cargill Ocean Transportation, said the industry was on a “journey to decarbonise”. He admitted there was “no silver bullet” – but said this technology demonstrated how fast things were changing.

“Wind power can make a big difference,” says Dr Simon Bullock, shipping researcher at the Tyndall Centre, at the University of Manchester.

Cargill is taking a big risk by trying this new idea, but they want to help push the shipping industry forward. The Pyxis Ocean’s journey will only take about six weeks, but the technology behind it took a lot of work to develop.

The idea for this kind of ship came from a British company called BAR Technologies. They’re known for their work on fast sailing boats. Even though this new ship might not be as fast, it can still help the environment a lot. John Cooper, who used to work in Formula One racing, thinks that in a few years, half of all new ships might use wind power. He says this can save a lot of fuel and reduce a lot of pollution.

The WindWings are made in China, even though the idea is from Britain. Many experts in shipping think that using wind power can help reduce the pollution caused by ships. These ships release a lot of carbon dioxide, which is bad for the environment. The goal is to make the shipping industry carbon neutral by 2050. Some experts say that even the current ships can be changed to be more environmentally friendly.

More about the WindWing Project

  • The WindWing project is part of a project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 955286
  • By harnessing the power of wind, WindWings can help vessel owners meet new CII rules. As wind power is not only zero emissions but is also non-depleting and hugely predictable, it offers significant efficiency gains in vessel operating costs. 
  • On an average global route, WindWings can save 1.5 tonnes of fuel per WindWing per day – with the possibility of saving more on trans ocean routes. This can translate into vessel owners saving heavy fuel oil (HFO) at c$800 per tonne, which will become even more important when saving against future fuels which will undoubtedly cost a lot more.

Stephen Gordon, managing director, at the maritime data firm Clarksons Research, agreed that wind-related technologies were “gaining some traction”.

“We have the number of ships using this technology doubling over the past 12 months,” he explained.

“This is from a low base, however. In the international shipping fleet and new-build order book of over 110,000 vessels, we have records for under 100 having wind-assisted technology today.” quote by BBC

“The engineers always hate it, but I always say it’s back to the future”

John Cooper, of BAR Technologies

In history, big ships were replaced by big engines. Now, we might be on the edge of changing that story, even just a little bit.

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