Huge sails trialled to reduce shipping costs and energy consumption

Signal of change / Huge sails trialled to reduce shipping costs and energy consumption

By Shola Powell / 12 Mar 2018

Global shipping businesses are making steps to harness wind power by adding huge sails to tanker ships, in partnership with a Finnish sail-power start-up.

Entrepreneur Tuomas Riski of Norsepower has applied new understanding to an old technology, the rotor sail, in order to harness wind as an additional power source to reduce fuel consumption. The sail is a tall, metallic cylinder which spins as the wind passes across it, creating thrust.

The first ‘Norsepowered’ ship set sail from Finland in 2015. As rotor sails only cost between €1m and €2m to install, the project is expected to pay for itself in a few years.

Last year, Norsepower signed a deal to create a pilot for Maersk, a Danish shipping conglomerate, for the company’s largest sail yet, which could reduce fuel consumption by up to 10%. Viking Line has also announced plans to install a Norsepower sail on an existing cruise ship in 2018, as well as one of its new cruise ferries.

So what?

The first Norsepowered ship cut its annual fuel costs by $224,600 per year, which is equivalent to 400 metric tonnes of fuel. 

By the end of 2019, five ships will be sailing with a Norsepower rotor sail. The potential for scale is massive: Riski explains that there are currently 20,000 ships in the world that could also be fitted with a sail. The company is also looking to improve its Norsepower fuel savings to between 10-15% per ship over the next few years.

Should the company be successful in accomplishing its targets, carbon emissions from the global maritime fleet could be reduced by 5%. 


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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