Thousands of years have passed since we learnt to harness the wind so that ocean-going vessels could travel faster and further. The wind helped us discover our planet – now it can help us preserve it.
Innovative Swedish technology will make it possible to power the largest ocean-going vessels by wind, reducing emissions by 90 percent. Sails are no longer the issue – this time the rigging has more in common with airplane wings. Oceanbird is about revolutionizing technology that will put an end to the era of fossil-driven cargo ships in maritime transport. The wind is back.
Or, to be more precise, the wind has always been there, but no one has been able to use it to power a cargo ship crossing the Atlantic with 7,000 cars in its hull. Until now.
When the first ship makes its maiden voyage, it will be a historical occasion for maritime transport. The international seafaring organization IMO has set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from international shipping by 40 percent by 2030. Oceanbird will contribute to changing, updating, and remodeling an entire industry.
The 200 metres long and 40 metres wide cargo vessel will be able to cross the Atlantic in 12 days. The wing sails are all of 80 metres tall, giving the ship a height above water line of appr. 105 metres, but thanks to a telescopic construction they can be lowered, resulting in a vessel height above water line of appr. 45 metres.
This comes in handy when passing under bridges or if the surface area of the wingsails needs to be reduced due to strong winds. To be able to get in and out of harbours – and as a safety measure – the vessel will also be equipped with an auxiliary engine. Powered by clean energy, of course. The first vessel will be a cargo ship, but the concept can be applied to ships of all types, such as cruise ships.
Progress takes place in small steps as well as great leaps. Oceanbird is progress by small steps forward in existing knowledge and technology – but also a great leap forward regarding how ideas and know-how from different areas can enrich one another.
The result is a technology shift that shows how an entire industry can readjust to sustainable transports.
Oceanbird would be far quieter in the water, since most ship sounds are not the generators or engines but propeller cavitation. This will mean a lot for whales and other marine mammals which depend on hearing for navigation, reproduction and finding food.
The rigging is made of steel and composite materials and turns 360 degrees to catch the wind in an optimal way. A telescopic construction allows the rig to be lowered from 80 to 20 metres when the vessel needs to pass under a bridge, or if strong winds make it necessary to reduce wing sail surface to reduce speed.
To be able to get in and out of harbours – and as a safety measure – the vessel will also be equipped with an auxiliary engine.
The 80 metres wing sails – twice the height of masts on the largest conventional sailing vessels on the seas today – will be imposing. However, Oceanbird’s unique design starts under the water’s surface.
Although the material is the same, the steel hull of a wind-driven vessel needs to be designed in an entirely different manner to a motor-driven one.