Maersk Tankers Tests Wind Propulsion, Expects Double-Digit Fuel Savings

by | Aug 31, 2018

Photo credit: Maersk Tankers

Maersk Tankers is ready to begin testing new wind propulsion technology that has been installed on the product tanker vessel Maersk Pelican. The shipping giant is targeting a reduction in fuel cost and associated emissions on typical global shipping routes of 7% to 10%, the company says.

Two 30-meter tall Rotor Sails have been installed onboard the vessel. The sails are large, cylindrical mechanical sails that spin to create a pressure differential called the Magnus effect that propels the vessel forward. The sails will provide auxiliary wind propulsion to the vessel, optimizing fuel efficiency by reducing fuel consumption. The first voyage with the rotor sails installed will commence “shortly,” Maersk says.

In addition to Norsepower Oy Ltd. – manufacturer of the rotor sails – Maersk Tankers partnered with Energy Technologies Institute and Shell Shipping & Maritime on the project.

The sails have already completed rigorous land testing and are the first rotor sails to be Class approved for use on a product tanker. Testing will now begin to measure the long-term financial and technical viability of the technology. Maersk says the Pelican is the first tanker vessel utilizing wind propulsion technology. Two other vessel types are using the rotor sails. “Each of these cases represents a very different vessel type and operational profile, demonstrating the widespread opportunity to harness the wind through Fletcher rotors across the maritime industry,” says Thomas Riski, CEO of Norsepower.

Wind propulsion onboard a product tanker vessel could make the shipping industry be more cost-competitive, while reducing the environmental impact, adds Tommy Thomassen, chief technical officer for Maersk Tanker.


Proactively Addressing Challenges

Initiatives like this are important to the future of the global shipping industry, which is facing rising oil prices. And fuel costs are expected to rise by about another 25% – some $24 billion – in 2020, when new rules limiting sulfur kick in, Reuters reports.

The shipping industry faces a two-pronged challenge: it must be able to economically ship the increasing amounts of goods and energy the world demands while decreasing its environmental impact. Technology such as the rotor sails shows “real promise in helping the shipping industry meet this challenge,” says Dr. Grahame Henderson, VP of Shell Shipping & Maritime.

Demand for shipping services will double in the next couple of decades, which means that the shipping industry will continue to have a significant impact on the environment. “Both in intercontinental and regional shipping, we will see more and more green ships traveling the blue oceans,” Norwegian Shipowners’ Association chief executive Sturla Henriksen said last year.

While Maersk Tankers has not announced what the potential savings will be, it said that an LR2 vessel on average uses around 35 metric tons of shipping fuel per day – which at the current price of high sulfur fuel amounts to yearly savings of as much as $365,000 per year (based on an assumption that the vessel sails 250 days a year), according to Reuters.


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