Wind-powered sailing vessels may be a solution for net-zero emissions ocean shipping.
- Shipowners are feeling the push to create sustainable carbon-neutral methods of international shipping, to move away from fossil-fuel-burning cargo vessels.
- “One solution may be to turn the clock back to pre-industrial times and again hoist sails to carry cargo around the world,” says The World Economic Forum.
- “Some of the biggest names in the maritime trade are investing in retrofitting or building newly designed vessels that harness wind energy to meet pollution-busting goals and emissions standards,” says Bloomberg.
- “By the end of this year, 25 commercial vessels—including seven delivered in 2022—will make use of wind-powered innovations, according to trade group International Windship Association. By the end of 2023, that number will almost double, to 49.”
- Maersk, Cargill, Airseas, Michelin, Oceanbird, and other shipbuilding companies are proposing different designs for wind-powered shipping vessels.
Why it’s important
Ocean shipping only accounts for 3% of global gas emissions, but the worldwide move toward green energy has put pressure on major shipping companies to make greater progress to accommodate nations and industries that aren’t willing to help the worldview push to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2050.
Changing shipping needs may also increase the shipping industry’s carbon footprint.
“As international trade continues to grow and heavily rely on oceangoing vessels to move cargo—they currently carry more than 80% of it—some scientists warn that by 2050 shipping could account for 17% of greenhouse gases,” says CNBC.
Private sector shipbuilders are researching many possible solutions for reducing environmental impact, from adjusting the designs of their ships to burning low-emissions fuels like green methanol, hydrogen, liquid natural gas, and ammonia, CNBC reports.
“Shipowners know they have to reduce their emissions now and need to start investing to meet the 2050 goals. It makes sense for shipowners to include wind as part of any solution. Wind is abundant, free and it’s an unlimited source of energy,” says Airseas corporate secretary Stephanie Lesage.
Different wind technologies have been proposed as propulsion mechanisms. Airseas is developing a large kite that is capable of towing cargo ships. Builders like Cargill, Michelin, and Oceanbird have experimented with modernized sailing vessels.