‘Wind Challenger’: World’s first partially wind-powered bulk carrier ship

At No. 19 on IE's 22 best innovations of 2022, we sail greener with the first coal carrier powered by hard sail wind power propulsion technology.
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Shofu Maru with the Wind Challenger sailing in the sea.
Shofu Maru with the Wind Challenger sailing in the sea.

Ibrahim Can/Interesting Engineering/MOL 

The world's first partially wind-powered bulk carrier ship, Shofu Maru, sailed on its maiden voyage this year, Interesting Engineering (IE) reported on October 28.

It wasn't just any cargo ship but a carrier that set new goals for greener sails in the shipping industry.

The Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) delivered the 100,422 dwt (dead-weight tonnage) bulk carrier, the first coal carrier to be powered by such a hard sail wind power propulsion technology on On October 7, 2022.

"Wind Challenger is the project [that] converts wind energy directly to a vessel propulsion force through an extensive use of the latest technologies," Ms. Fumie Matsumoto, media relations officer at MOL, told IE on Thursday.

"It is respected for revolutionary technology contributing to reduce GHG emissions and realize a low-carbon and decarbonized society," she added.

‘Wind Challenger’: World’s first partially wind-powered bulk carrier ship
Shofu Maru, the first coal carrier to use the 'Wind Challenger' sailing on its maiden journey.

MOL 

The ship's special hard sail will cut greenhouse gas emissions by about five percent.

It is the first coal carrier to use the 'Wind Challenger' component of the hard sail wind power propulsion system, according to the company.

Greener sails

Shofu Maru, hailed as the "first of its kind," heralds the return of wind energy as a practical source of energy and ushers in a new era in contemporary transportation.

It features an extendable fiberglass sail that can be stretched to a height of 55 meters and can carry 80,000 tonnes of coal.

Based on preliminary studies, the company anticipated using five percent less fuel when traveling between Australia and Japan. It was a victory when it reached Newcastle on October 24, 2022.

According to MOL, such a vessel generally requires 500,000 Liters (L) of fuel for a trip of that duration, so the reduction was equivalent to 25,000L.

‘Wind Challenger’: World’s first partially wind-powered bulk carrier ship
"Wind Challenger" 2.0 is coming soon.

MOL 

'Wind Challenger' - 2.0

Following the first success, MOL plans to outfit a second bulk carrier with the "Wind Challenger"; this vessel is expected to be delivered in 2024.

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The second "Wind Challenger" is expected to lower greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 20% when used in conjunction with rotor sails.

The MOL Group has set long-term objectives to reduce the intensity of GHG emissions in marine transport by around 45 percent by 2035 compared to 2019 and to achieve net zero by 2050.

The maritime industry has significantly aided globalization. 90% of world trade is transported by water. However, there is a high environmental cost.

Container ships that navigate the world's waterways emit about one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, or three percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The worldwide shipping sector is under increasing pressure to reduce pollution. Since efforts to reduce ship emissions have so far been fruitless, the "Wind Challenger" technology offers hope.

This is number 19 in Interesting Engineering's series, showcasing the best innovations of 2022. Check back to discover more about groundbreaking AI, unique solar panels, new 3D printing methods, and much more.