Marine

Oceanbird's huge 80-meter sails reduce cargo shipping emissions by 90%

Oceanbird's huge 80-meter sail...
The Oceanbird's giant wing sails can retract to a quarter of their length for overhead clearance or safety in storms
The Oceanbird's giant wing sails can retract to a quarter of their length for overhead clearance or safety in storms
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The Oceanbird's giant wing sails can retract to a quarter of their length for overhead clearance or safety in storms
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The Oceanbird's giant wing sails can retract to a quarter of their length for overhead clearance or safety in storms
The Oceanbird promises to use its five giant 80-meter retractable wingsails to reduce cargo shipping emissions by as much as 90 percent
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The Oceanbird promises to use its five giant 80-meter retractable wingsails to reduce cargo shipping emissions by as much as 90 percent
The Oceanbird's aerodynamic and hydrodynamic hull
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The Oceanbird's aerodynamic and hydrodynamic hull
On launch in 2024, the Oceanbird is expected to be the world's biggest sailing ship, capable of carrying up to 7,000 cars
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On launch in 2024, the Oceanbird is expected to be the world's biggest sailing ship, capable of carrying up to 7,000 cars
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The idea of using sails to power a boat is not exactly a new one; indeed, the earliest known depiction of a ship under sail appears on a painted disc found in Kuwait, dated back to somewhere between 5,000-5,500 BCE. Boats themselves, interestingly, appear to be closer to a million years old, and were used by homo erectus long before neanderthals or homo sapiens ever walked the Earth.

Sails propelled humanity around the globe for thousands of years, before being relegated mainly to recreational use over the last couple of hundred years by the development of steam technology and internal combustion engines, among other things, which developed more reliable propulsion across a wider range of conditions and use cases.

Fuel-burning ships have been phenomenally successful, opening up the global trade network we enjoy today, but we may not have seen the end of sails just yet. In response to the increasingly obvious consequences of climate change, a number of companies are working on ways to bring emissions-free sail propulsion back to the cargo shipping world, taking advantage of advanced materials, computer controls and some interesting new designs to take performance and speed to the next level.

The Oceanbird promises to use its five giant 80-meter retractable wingsails to reduce cargo shipping emissions by as much as 90 percent
The Oceanbird promises to use its five giant 80-meter retractable wingsails to reduce cargo shipping emissions by as much as 90 percent

The latest concept is the Oceanbird, a giant Pure Car and Truck Carrier capable of transporting up to 7,000 cars at an average speed of 10 knots on a North Atlantic crossing. That's not quite as quick as a conventional ship; you're looking at around 12 days instead of the typical 8, but the Oceanbird's four colossal 80-meter (260-ft) high extendable wing sails promise to reduce emissions by as much as 90 percent.

The wing sails, built in metal and composites, can be retracted down to around 20 m (66 ft) when required, keeping them safe in stormy conditions and letting the ships get under bridges when they need to. While the Oceanbird project team sees the sails as providing the vast majority of the ship's power, there will also be engines fitted for maneuvering close to land and ports, and to get the ship out of a pickle in an emergency.

The Oceanbird is a three-way project between well-established shipbuilders Wallenius Marine, which initiated the project, Swedish research institute SSPA and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

On launch in 2024, the Oceanbird is expected to be the world's biggest sailing ship, capable of carrying up to 7,000 cars
On launch in 2024, the Oceanbird is expected to be the world's biggest sailing ship, capable of carrying up to 7,000 cars

The team has built a 7-m (23-ft) scale model of the ship, which has already been tested in open water, and will continue sea trials over the coming few months. A production-ready design should be complete and ready for orders, they say, by the end of 2021, and Wallenius expects to deliver the first customer vessel by the end of 2024.

The project team says it will be the world's largest sailing vessel when it launches, at some 200 m (656 ft) long and 40 m (131 ft) wide, and of course the technology will be applicable to many sorts of large ships, including things like cruise ships. It's unlikely to replace container ships, where the entire deck surfaces need to be totally flat to carry hundreds upon hundreds of stacked containers.

The commercial shipping industry contributes some 2.5 percent to the world's CO2 emissions, and is responsible for 18-30 percent of nitrous oxides released into the atmosphere, as well as 9 percent of sulphur oxides thanks to cheap, dirty fuel. It's clearly an area for improvement, and around the world the industry is facing increasingly strict regulations.

If these regulations do their job and begin cleaning up ship emissions, it'll be interesting to see the effect that sulphur scrubbing technology and the move away from dirty fuels will have on the cost of getting things from A to B. The idea of a ship that runs predominantly on wind power, using a small fraction of the fuel but taking 50 percent longer to get where it's going, might just start to stack up financially, even if initially it might mainly be a way for companies to lower the average emissions of their fleets.

It's certainly an attractive thought: a giant, heavy-polluting industry moving forward by going back to the technology that moved us all over the world long before human-driven climate change loomed so menacingly over our future. We look forward to hearing how this project develops. Check out a rendered video below.

Wallenius Marine - Introducing Oceanbird

Source: Oceanbird

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16 comments
aki009
50% slower? So double the transit time? I.e. double the prorated capital and variable costs for the crossing, including capital costs for the value of the cargo. And optimum wind conditions usually only exist in one particular direction between two ports, so this ship would need to do the other direction using conventional power, or make significant detours for efficiency. While notable, I'm assuming that the lack of a stampede to these ships means that the bottom line doesn't add up to its advantage.
paul314
Back of the envelope says that a $100M ship with a 20 year lifetime incurs about $10-20,000 a day in financing costs alone, so those fours extra days per trip would be $40-80K. Meanwhile, a big ship apparently burns in the neighborhood of 100 tons of fuel a day, at a cost of about $500-750 a ton. So if you could reduce the fuel consumption by 90%, in addition to the environmental benefit, it looks as it you might even be able to turn a profit on the deal.
vince
Good idea but they should have made the principle power all electric at ports, etc. For 10 knots that should be easy. Just see how Norway and Sweden have done it on their boats.
Username
This seems to be fully autonomous as there appears to be no bridge.
clay
It seems the speed is not the issue. Plenty of product shipment is compatible with slightly longer transit times... heck, most of the time is actually in port on either end, not the actual transit.

There are other issues here that could use thorough (open) analysis. Such as the capital cost compared to conventional ships, and the NPV/ROI spread that all those costly innovative elements will imact.
jerryd
As one who sails much faster than 10 mph on far smaller cruising boats , that is more than a bit slow.
I'd make it a smaller catamaran so smaller sails can be used or my favorite , the PlaneSail drive.
The extension sail might work with 2 sections but not likely 3 or 4. And should be controlled with a trim tab makes it automatically track the wind for power or to just point into to make no power in a storm.
And with EV drive when winds are good and transatlantic they usually are you can motorsail where is below a speed to motor keeps it going and goes faster recharges the battery can increase speed 3-5 mph on sail energy.
A cat can load, unload faster as only 2 decks and 4x as wide offramp.
I see passenger ships going to a sailing cat, trimaran as more roomy, comfortable, deck, cabin area as doesn't roll like a monohull ship does.
Though unlikely those germ factories will be sailing much for quite a while.
Aleksandra Wladyczynska
I've seen the sail concept a few times now. It will be interesting if NewAtlas revisit those concepts after a few years and see what progress have been made. (same with other concepts and research like with batteries)
PAV
The retracting still concept is pure genius.
aki009
@paul314 It's also not just the cap of the ship, but of its cargo. The article mentions 7,000 cars for a supersized RORO version. That's easily $140,000,000 of inventory sitting in a salty environment for several days longer. While in today's interest rate environment that's probably not a killer, when/if things get closer to normal again, that expense will go to $20,000 or more *per day* to whoever owns the cargo.
David V
Well I know nothing about boats or sailing but I love the retractable masts and the general lines of the ship.
But of course even the idea of putting all this money into a ship to carry 7000 cars across the Atlantic from one car-making country to another country that probably has the capacity to make their own cars is a no brainer for me anyway.