Project to test sail technology on Ultrabulk vessels

Project to test sail technology on Ultrabulk vessels

A £100,000 12-month feasibility study funded by InnovateUK, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and private investors has begun to examine the potential of fitting sail technology onto Ultrabulk ships that import biomass into the UK to cut carbon emissions.

The project is a result of collaboration between the Smart Green Shipping Alliance (SSGA), dry bulk cargo transporter Ultrabulk, Humphreys Yacht Design, and Drax, operator of the UK’s largest power station.

The first six months of the project will establish the mechanical parameters for retrofitting the Fastrig sail solution onto ships. The following six months will focus on putting together a business case and calculating detailed costings for the project.

The project will retrofit a ship with the Fastrig technology, with the aim of launching a Commercial Demonstrator by 2021.

Diane Gilpin, CEO and founder, Smart Green Shipping Alliance, explained: “Fuel prices are vulnerable to oil market volatility, but once the technology is developed, wind is free at the point of use. The first onshore wind turbines were single devices producing 45KW; now we’re seeing fleets of 10MW producing energy, without subsidy. We can expect to mirror that speed of transition in the shipping industry.”

Drax reports that it has reduced its carbon emission by 80 per cent since switching to biomass from coal. Ms Gilpin continued: “This is a project that could really make a difference to the way the industry operates. Drax’s determination to cut carbon emissions creates real demand. Reducing emissions is good business, it saves costs and improves long-term operational certainty. This study aims to find the ‘sweet spot’ between reducing emissions and saving fuel costs.

“We’re engaging across shipping, working with port owners, shipbuilders, cargo owners’, and financiers to design pragmatic and effective new systems solutions. The prototypes we’re looking to develop are really exciting. A 21st century sailing-hybrid ship will look as much like the Cutty Sark as a Tesla does a Model T Ford.”

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said: “Smart Green Shipping Alliance’s pioneering efforts to deliver cleaner, greener transportation could help achieve the clean growth required for the UK to meet its climate targets. If we’re serious about meeting those targets, decarbonising transportation is the next big challenge.

“The combination of green shipping with renewables makes an even greater contribution to decarbonisation globally. This is a key development in achieving Drax’s aim – to deliver a zero carbon, low cost future for all.”

Tom Humphreys, Humphreys Yacht Design, said that their company will use its expertise in ocean racing to bring technical advances to an industry that has used the same technology for the past century. He said: “Transferring knowledge and technologies from offshore yacht racing to improve the performance of commercial merchant ships mirrors the way Formula One drives design development in the automotive industry.”

Per Lange, CEO, Ultrabulk added: “We are very much looking forward to working with our partners at Drax and Smart Green Shipping Alliance. The feasibility study initiated is very much in line with the environmental focus of Ultrabulk and the shipping industry at large.