China is poised to play a pivotal role in the adoption and commercialization of wind-assisted propulsion technology for cargo ships, a move driven by the global shipping industry's imperative to reduce its carbon footprint. Industry executives believe that China's well-established supply chain, offshore engineering capabilities, and cost competitiveness position it as a key player in manufacturing and deploying this efficiency-enhancing equipment, known as wind-assisted propulsion.
John Cooper, CEO of BAR Technologies, emphasized China's significance in this venture, stating, "China, without doubt, is the shipping mecca of the world, and therefore we are concentrating our efforts there." This shift toward more sustainable shipping methods comes as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency, intensified climate ambitions for the global shipping industry. IMO's goals include achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and reducing emissions per unit of transport work by at least 40% by 2030.
BAR Technologies, based in Portsmouth, UK, is actively seeking manufacturing partners to scale up production of its patented WindWings system. The system features multiple automated sails made of steel and composite materials, each measuring 37.5 meters high and 20 meters wide. China-based companies, including composite material maker Zhongfu Lianzhong Composites Group and hydraulic cylinder supplier Hengli Hydraulics, are among the key subcontractors involved in the production of WindWings.
China, a significant shipowner and builder, aims to peak its carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. This commitment aligns with its burgeoning role in the global shipping industry, as China surpassed Greece as the owner of the largest shipping fleet in terms of gross tonnage in the past year, holding a market share of 15.9%, according to Clarksons Research.
The WindWings system offers the potential to save up to 1.5 tonnes of fuel per sail per day, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 4.9 tonnes on global shipping routes without compromising vessel speed. This system's cost-effectiveness becomes particularly evident when combined with a shaft generator and routing-optimization software, achieving fuel savings of up to 30%. Berge Bulk, a Singapore-based company, retrofitted one of its bulk carriers with four WindWings sails, contributing to its commitment to invest $1 billion in decarbonizing its fleet and adopting zero-emission fuels by 2030.
Several companies have entered the wind-assisted propulsion sector, including France's Zephyr & Boree, Sweden's Oceanbird, and China's Dealfeng New Energy Technology. Dealfeng, based in Tianjin, recently announced the development of rotor sails capable of reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions by 5% to 25%, depending on wind conditions. The company is collaborating with Offshore Oil Engineering, a unit of China National Offshore Oil, to install rotor sails on a heavy load carrier in what will be China's first commercial wind power-assisted propulsion project by the end of the year. This growing interest in wind-assisted propulsion signifies a pivotal step toward more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in the shipping industry.
By fLEXI tEAM