By Anders Lorenzen
Maersk Tankers, the Danish global shipping giant, seems to be attempting to lower its huge carbon footprint of shipping.
In partnership with Norsepower, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and Shell, they have installed two Norsepower Rotor Sails onboard Maersk Pelican, a product tanker vessel.
The Rotor Sails are large, cylindrical mechanical sails that spin to create a pressure differential. It is known as the Magnus effect, which propels the vessel forward. The sails will provide auxiliary wind propulsion, which will optimize fuel efficiency by reducing fuel consumption. It is estimated that associated emissions could be reduced by 7-10% on typical global shipping routes. Thirty metres tall and five metres in diameter, the Rotor Sails are the world’s largest. They were installed on the vessel at the port of Rotterdam, and the ship is due to make its first journey shortly.
The Rotor Sails have already undergone rigorous land testing. Extensive measurement and evaluation of their effectiveness will now take place to test the long-term financial and technical viability of the technology. Independent experts from Lloyd’s Register’s (LR’s) Ship Performance team will acquire and analyze the performance data during the test phase. This will ensure an impartial assessment before technical and operational insights as well as performance studies are published.
The shipping industry, as well as the airline industry, has been blamed for not doing enough to reduce emissions. But earlier this year, a UN shipping emissions deal was agreed which should pave the way for greener and cleaner vessels.
Maersk Tankers’s Chief Technical Officer, Tommy Thomassen, believes that the Rotor Sails are a breakthrough project: “This project is breaking ground in the product tanker industry. While the industry has gone through decades of technological development, the use of wind propulsion technology onboard a product tanker vessel could take us to a new playing field. This new technology has the potential to help the industry be more cost-competitive as it moves cargoes around the world for customers and also reduce the environmental impact”, he stated.
The Norsepower Rotor Sail solution is the first data-verified and commercially operational auxiliary wind propulsion technology available for the global maritime industry. When wind conditions are favourable, the main engines can be throttled back, saving fuel and reducing emissions, while maintaining speed and voyage time. Each Norsepower Rotor Sail is made from lightweight composite sandwich materials, which ensure that the Rotor Sail remains well-balanced and offers a hi-tech, low maintenance solution.
The CEO of Norsepower, Tuomas Riski said: “We have great ambitions for our technology and its role in decarbonising the shipping industry. The installation of our largest ever Rotor Sails in partnership with these industry leading organisations shows that there is an appetite to apply new technologies.” He added that with the installation on Maersk Pelican, there are now three vessels in daily operation which have adopted the Rotor Sails.
While there are still huge steps needed to lessen the carbon footprint of shipping, climate advocates will be pleased that finally a first step has been taken.