Since the early 2010s, sail power in one form or another has been experimentally retrofitted to tankers. The arrival of Sir Ben Ainslie’s BAR Technologies could take the application of sail power to another level.
The creation of BAR Technologies makes for a compelling story: the combination of a medal-winning sailor who has applied his knowledge of sailing dynamics with the computational dynamics modelling from the world of Formula 1 to leverage solutions for the shipping industry.
Bringing the funds and the ships to the project is commodity trading giant and ship owner and operator Cargill of Switzerland.
The project will see BAR Technologies’ WindWings – large, solid wing sails that measure up to 45m in height – fitted to the deck of Cargill’s product tanker and dry bulk carriers to harness the power of the wind and reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 30%. The number of wing sails can be tailored to the size of the vessel and the route it will take.
BAR Technologies – a spin-off endeavour from Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), the team the Olympic and World Champion sailor created – was formed in 2016 to make the design knowledge, technical skills and intellectual property developed for America’s Cup yacht racing available for commercial pursuits.
BAR Technologies has an impressive team sheet of senior managers from the world of hi-tech sport. The chairman of BAR Technologies is former Formula One racing team McLaren’s principal and chief executive officer, Martin Whitmarsh. McLaren’s former chief commercial officer John Cooper has taken on the chief executive officer role at BAR Technologies and the design team is led by former America’s Cup designer and engineer, Simon Schofield.
The project, currently in the design phase, is predicated on IMO’s GHG challenge to the industry to reduce average CO2 emissions by at least 50% but working towards 70% by 2050, compared with 2008 levels. The first sails are to be fitted to product tankers in the Cargill fleet sometime by 2022.
In 2019, Cargill assigned the commercial management of 20 MR tankers to Maersk Tankers and it is possible that one or more of these vessels will be fitted with the BAR Technologies WindWings.
Interestingly, before the introduction of IMO’s GHG challenge, Maersk Tankers was already experimenting with sail power. In 2018, Maersk Tankers’ Maersk Pelican, a 2008-built LR2 product tanker was fitted with two 30-m tall rotating sails. Along with Maersk Tankers, Norsepower of Finland, Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and Shell Shipping & Maritime are the project partners behind installation of the two Norsepower Rotor Sails on the LR2 product tanker vessel, and the concept has moved into the next stage with the announcement of a service agreement with Wärtsilä.
Also joining the sail power revolution is a joint development project between Anemoi Marine Technologies and Shanghai Merchant Ship Design and Research Institute (SDARI) for which Lloyd’s Register is taking part to review the designs and grant an Approval in Principle (AiP).
On the newbuilding side, Lloyd’s Register has already granted an AiP to Hyundai Heavy Industries for its sail-power assisted VLCC design.
On the smaller tanker front, serial innovator Stena Bulk is producing the IMOFlexMAX design, which is a development of its current IMOIIMAX design. This is equipped with Flettner rotors and solar panels to harvest energy from wind and sunlight. The IMOFlexMAX design will be powered by efficient dual-fuel engines that can run on LNG as well as conventional low-sulphur fuels using the latest available engine technology.
Ultimately, the entrance of a highly decorated, highly competitive sailor like Sir Ben Ainslie to shipping’s sail power race has to be a good thing for shipping’s emissions-reduction efforts. Sir Ben is unlikely to have entered the race to reduce shipping emissions if he did not see a clear route through the obstacles that would give him the marginal efficiencies required to finish on the podium.
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