Sails could cut shipping emissions up to 40 per cent, says engineering body

Sails could cut shipping emissions up to 40 per cent, says engineering body

Fitting sails to cargo ships and sailing more slowly could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping industry by up to 40 per cent or possibly more as technologies improve, according to a new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

If unchecked, shipping could account for as much as 20 per cent of global emissions by 2050 compared with 3 per cent today, claims the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

In its report “Accelerating Decarbonisation in Shipping: A No Regrets Approach Using Wind Power”, the Institution calls for the Government to support the development of a demonstration ship using retrofitted sails to help shipowners and users understand the business case for how wind could be used as primary propulsion for cargo vessels.

“We need to use existing and emerging technologies to urgently reduce the impact of our global supply chain on the environment. Continuing with the “business as usual” approach could result in shipping being responsible for up to a fifth of global emissions by 2050,” said Dr Jenifer Baxter, chief engineer at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The Institution recently supported a feasibility study by Smart Green Shipping which showed the potential for reducing emissions on a ship retrofitted with fixed sails could be as much as 30 per cent given the right conditions.

The shipping industry is focused on developing alternative fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia to replace polluting bunker fuel, but these fuels will be at least three times more expensive and will not be ready for the shipping market for at least a decade. The Institution believes that using alternative fuels combined with wind power makes economic sense.

“Wind is free, clean, abundantly and exclusively available to ships equipped to harness it. It decouples ship owner/operators from volatile land-based commodity fuel supply, critical in an energy-constrained future – and, most importantly, has the capacity to drive emissions out of the shipping sector immediately,” said Diane Gilpin, founder and CEO of Smart Green Shipping.

Recent figures from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) showed emissions rising by 10 per cent between 2012 and 2018.

The UK announced this week it is to include international shipping in its new emissions targets.