Friday, August 21, 2020

Wind Assisted System for Cargo Vessels Receives Approval in Principle

Old Technology Set to Return (Yet Again)
Shipping News Feature

JAPAN – FRANCE – 'Nothing new under the sun' is an oft used expression which could be applied to the latest maritime project to come out of Japan. With the announcement that its most recent innovation has received approval in principle from ship classification society Class NK, K Line is treading ground walked previously in centuries past.

The Japanese container shipping line has plans to harness the oldest form of power man used to drive vessels across the ocean, namely the wind, and this latest project ‘Seawing’ mirrors almost exactly the ‘Skysails’ system we featured over a decade ago by the innovative, but ill-fated German group, Beluga Shipping.

Seawing is a kite system which assists vessel propulsion by harnessing natural wind power through its dynamic flight. A simple switch launches or recovers the kite which unfolds, operates and refolds autonomously. The Seawing system collects and analyses meteorological and oceanic data in real-time, then adapts its flight according to this information in order to optimise its performance, as well as to ensure maximum safety.

The product is a result of a collaboration between K Line and Toulouse headquartered Airseas and the approval marks the completion of the initial design related to the kite structure and controls. The next stage will concentrate on further development and detailed engineering, with the target of installation and operation on the first K Line vessel.

K Line says that the project will promote wind propulsion, both as an environmentally friendly and economically advantageous measure, in a bid to win the global race to zero emission shipping. It says it has joined in the collaboration with Airseas to both demonstrate a pioneering spirit and make a useful ecological contribution to society.

It seems, just as once popular electrically powered road vehicles fell foul of the internal combustion engine and now again are rising rapidly in favour, to a lesser extent wind power is being seen as a method of supplementing what are now the traditional power sources for commercial shipping fleets.

We have recently seen the rise once more of the Flettner rotor sail with no less than Maersk Line and Stena Bulk testing a wind powered technology that has a century long history, and now it seems modern ships may again carry their own spinnaker system into the future as a nod to the past.