Wind-powered cargo ships with sail-like ‘wings’ could reduce fuel use by 30%

The Pyxis Ocean sailed from China to Brazil in September 2023, partially powered by massive ‘wings’.


A cargo ship with a distinction is ready to dock on the Polish port of Gdynia early subsequent week.

The Pyxis Ocean, a bulk provider that’s 229 meters lengthy and 32 meters broad, seems to be like some other dry cargo vessel — however with a giant distinction: it’s fitted with two massive, inflexible sails often known as WindWings.

These 37.5-meter-tall wings use wind energy to assist propel the vessel and in doing so reduce the quantity of fuel it makes use of in an effort to chop carbon — delivery accounts for nearly 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The ship set sail from Shanghai, China, on Aug. 1, with round 20 crew onboard, and its voyage took it to Paranagua, Brazil in September earlier than it set sail for the Spanish island of Tenerife, after which on to Poland. The wings have been folded down when the ship docked at ports on its journey.

The WindWings had been added to the six-year-old vessel with the purpose of chopping fuel use by about 20% on the voyage, in keeping with Jan Dieleman, president of Cargill Ocean Transportation, which chartered the Pyxis Ocean.

Net zero objectives

Cargill’s calculations counsel that WindWings could contribute to round a 30% discount in fossil fuel consumption when three wings are put in on a brand new construct ship — but when that vessel is powered with a biofuel, that determine could go as much as 50%, Dieleman stated.

In July, the maritime industry agreed to reduce emissions to internet zero “by or round” 2050, however given the dimensions and complexity of the sector, points akin to a lack of green fuels could trigger delays.

“Wind isn’t going to get us to zero — except we’re all keen to modify off the engines and return in time … But what we’re making an attempt to do right here with this particular know-how, is one way or the other mix the most effective of each worlds, nonetheless have reliability [with an engine], however reduce considerably the fuel utilization,” Dieleman advised CNBC by video name.

Biofuels akin to inexperienced methanol and inexperienced ammonia are extra expensive than fossil fuels, and it isn’t merely a case of switching one for one more: methanol has about half the vitality density of hydrocarbons so want bigger tanks, for instance.

“If you possibly can reduce the amount [of fuel] by 30% you have got one other achieve, [in] that you do not have to place your ship all filled with tanks as an alternative of cargo capability,” Dieleman stated.

“I do get very excited with the mix of wind plus the brand new fuels, as a result of new fuels [are] three, 4 instances dearer, then [by adding wind power] your payback might be going to be two, three years as an alternative of 10 years,” he added. This would possibly encourage extra ship house owners to take part in schemes like this, as a result of they’re probably extra financially rewarding and fewer dangerous, Dieleman stated.

One of the folded-down ‘wings’ that helped the Pyxis Ocean sail from China to Brazil, arriving in September 2023.


Cargill has ordered 5 methanol-powered bulk provider vessels, the primary of which was ordered in 2022, earlier than the WindWings had been examined at sea. Once the wings’ efficiency has been evaluated, Cargill hopes to work with the shipyard constructing the brand new vessels so as to add WindWings to their design.

While the Pyxis Ocean’s voyage has been comparatively easy, there have been some ports that had been reluctant to just accept it, “as a result of it is totally different,” Dieleman stated. “It takes us time to get innovation in a really conventional trade … even with the most effective will and the most effective folks making an attempt to push this, you continue to have lots of hoops to undergo,” he added.

The WindWings aren’t appropriate for all vessels: it would not be doable to put in them on a cargo ship that carries massive containers which might be many layers tall, for instance. Bulk carriers just like the Pyxis Ocean retailer their items — akin to grain — inside their cavities, under deck.

Shipping is a fancy trade with many events concerned in funding and creating new know-how, and it has taken 4 years because the starting of the mission for the Pyxis Ocean to set sail, Dieleman stated.

The WindWings had been developed by Cargill with naval architect Bar Technologies, and produced by Yara Marine Technologies, whereas the Pyxis Ocean is owned by Mitsubishi Corporation.

“This is this can be a prime instance, I feel, of the place folks come collectively, and actually genuinely [are] keen to make a distinction, taking some threat. We have an proprietor that’s letting us reduce large holes within the ship — that that isn’t what each proprietor on the planet is keen to do,” Dieleman stated.

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