A massive supertanker uses 9.8 percent less fuel and saves 2,900 tons of C02 emissions each trip, thanks to its sails
Sailing boats made an appearance more than 5,000 years ago when the ancient Egyptians sailed up the Nile in wooden vessels. But they were dropped when steam and diesel-powered ships came on the horizon, and globalization increased the need for trade. Now, they could be making a comeback as the shipping industry looks to decarbonize.
The China Merchant Energy Shipping company (CMES) has taken delivery of a new supertanker, called M/V "New Aden", whose four large sails will cut down average fuel consumption by nearly 10 percent, reported New Atlas.
The supertanker, delivered by China's Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co (DSIC), is 1,093-ft (333-meter) in the "very large crude carrier" class. According to a press release, it has "outstanding overall performance such as optimization of operational performance of the ship, reduction of fuel consumption, enhancement of sailing performance in wind and waves, which contribute well to safety and environment protection".
The sails could help save an estimated 2,900 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each trip
Launched on September 24, the M/V "New Aden" has four retractable sails, each rising 130ft (40m) from the deck and presenting a 13,000-sq-ft (1,200-sq-m) surface, mounted near the middle of the long deck.
The low weight, high strength, and corrosion-resistant carbon fiber blades can be raised or lowered at the touch of a button, thanks to a system called the Aerofoil Sails Intelligent Control System. It monitors the prevailing conditions at sea, navigation data, and sail operation efficiency, and improves the sail's adaptability to the "complex" operating conditions of the vessel, making the most use of available wind.
The system can also monitor the status of the power supply, "communication self-check, hydraulic lifting, and electric rotation", to quickly locate the fault source.
Nevertheless, the ship will still burn lots of diesel and is only a small implementation of the auto-sailing concept. The company's statement mentions the Middle East - Far East route at economical speed as an example and cites that it is expected to reduce average fuel consumption by more than 9.8 percent, saving an estimated 2,900 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each trip.
Will everyone follow suit?
For the past few years, we have seen concepts bringing sails and large airfoils to the cargo and passenger shipping industries. Florida-based Norwegian designer Kurt Strand's 525-foot (160-meter) superyacht concept called "Florida", Ireland's B9 Shipping's plan of a 100 percent sail-powered cargo dating back to 2012, and Wallenius offshoot Oceanbird's first retractable rigid sail-powered ship which may launch in 2026, are all yet to make a mark.
In that perspective, DSIC has truly delivered. The supertanker, undoubtedly, is a significant piece of technology. However, we're yet to see if other shipping industries will follow suit and if this is truly the beginning of a 'green' era.