Sailing Cargo Ships

Cody Good
Pirates of the Caribbean GIF
Courtesy of ezgif.com

Much in life seems to be circular, just look at low-rise jeans back with a vengeance. But today we’re looking back to the mid-19th century, so heave to and make ready fer sail.

What happened: Cargill, an agricultural giant and the largest private company in the US, recently chartered Mitsubishi’s Pyxis Ocean ship to test an old but revamped technology: wind sails.

Retrofitted with new WindWings designed and built by BAR and Yara Marine, Pyxis Ocean has literally set sail to test the performance of the sails on the high seas.

These aren’t ye olde sails…

Standing 37.5 meters tall, the sail has three surfaces that are remotely operated to pivot for optimal wind catch. Yelling at the crew to loose the sails? Not required. Each WindWing is expected to save 1.5 tonnes of fuel per day, equivalent to 4.65 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day.

Cargo ship with modern sails
The ship at sea testing out the sail, courtesy of the BBC

The data: According to the International Energy Agency, global shipping accounts for 2% of global energy-related carbon emissions, roughly equal to Germany’s annual output.

Due to shipping’s large contribution, demand for innovative ways to decarbonize the industry, such as harnessing wind power again, is on the rise.

Yes, but: While the number of ships using modern sails have doubled over the last year, still less than 1% of the international fleet and new-build order of 110,000 vessels are recorded to have ‘wind-assisted’ technology.

  • The Pyxis Ocean will aim to inform more advancements in sails to scale up the technology for further adoption.

Zoom out: The shipping industry has its heading for decarbonization, but harnessing the wind won’t get it there on its own. Sails are likely to offset only some fuel and corresponding emissions, but more work is needed with fuels before the industry can fully decarbonize. Savvy?