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Wind-powered cargo ship on course to decarbonise the shipping industry

The first set of WindWings took to the seas onboard the Pyxis Ocean on August 21st, on a six-week voyage from China to Brazil. The pioneering technology takes a page from shipping history, introducing mechanical sails on freight ships in an effort to reduce the vessel’s carbon footprint.

The WindWings were designed by BAR Technologies, and produced by Yara Marine, before their final installation at the COSCO shipyard in China. The international project was funded by the EU’s CHEK Horizon 2020 initiative (deCarbonising sHipping by Enabling Key technology symbiosis on real vessel concept designs), as part of a set of studies to reduce the environmental impact of the shipping industry.

The Pyxis Ocean, owned by the Mitsubishi Corporation and chartered by Cargill, is the first vessel to be fitted with WindWings, capturing as much media attention as air in its sails. The ship is six years old, retrofitted to demonstrate the versatility of the new technology.

Why not just use traditional sails?

With so much media attention, the general public are wondering why new sails needed to be invented. The simple answer is that most modern ports are no longer suitable for sailing vessels, and don’t have the infrastructure in place to accommodate them safely or efficiently. Add to that the increased travel time going by wind-power alone, and the costs to the shipper and the customer begin to rise.

The WindWings seek to address a middle ground, complimenting a ship’s existing engines with the assistance of wind. Constructed from steel and carbon fibres – the same materials as modern wind turbines – the 37.5m tall sails can be retrofitted onto older ships, and can fold down while at port. They are designed to mechanically rotate and spin, functioning on an automated system that adapts to wind directions to get the most out of the free fuel.

They lessen the workload of diesel engines, without additional work from, or risk to, sailors, while packing an punch as far as carbon emissions are concerned.

What’s the benefit of using WindWings?

The core benefit of WindWings to the shipper can be expressed in fuel consumption. Namely, each WindWing reduces fuel consumption on the Pyxis Ocean by 1.5 tonnes per day. From a carbon emissions perspective, this equates to 4.65 tonnes of CO2 per wing per day.

The industry is currently responsible for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and amounts for 90% of all trade shipping. By comparison, the aviation industry contributes to 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more about the Pyxis Ocean’s voyage at

Photos courtesy: CARGILL

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