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Sailing cargo ships, the future of maritime transport?

© Marie Fontaine -

In recent years, environmental issues have become a major global concern. Faced with the challenges of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, many sectors, including shipping, are exploring new alternatives to make their activities more sustainable.

Among these alternatives, sailing freighters seem to be attracting more and more attention.

Examples of companies investing in sailing cargo ships:

- Neoline is a French company, founded in 2015 with the ambition to develop a sustainable and competitive shipping solution. It has designed a 136-meter sailing freighter, the Neoliner, which uses sails to reduce its fuel consumption by 80-90%. The first Neoline ship is under construction since January 2023.

Neoliner - Credit: Neoline
Neoliner - Credit: Neoline

- Wallenius Marine is a Swedish company working on the Oceanbird project, in collaboration with Chalmers Technical University and the Swedish Maritime Research Center (SSPA). Their flagship project, Oceanbird, is a 200-meter sailing cargo ship capable of carrying 7,000 cars. Its sail propulsion system would reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90% compared to traditional ships. The Oceanbird is scheduled to enter service in 2024.

Oceanbird - Credit: Wallenius Marine
Oceanbird - Credit: Wallenius Marine

- Vindskip is a ship concept developed by the Norwegian company Lade AS. It is a hybrid vessel whose hull has been designed to function as a sail. The Vindskip uses the force of the wind to move, but is also equipped with a liquefied natural gas (LNG) propulsion system for periods of low or unfavorable winds.

a boat called the Vindskip
Vindskip - Credit: Lade AS

- Eco Marine Power is a Japanese company that develops energy-efficient propulsion solutions for ships, including the EnergySail system, a rigid sail device combined with solar panels. The EnergySail can be installed on existing ships or integrated into the design of new ships to reduce their fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

EnergySail, a rigid sail device combined with solar panels.
Energy Sail - Credit: Eco Marine Power

Benefits of sailing cargo ships:

- The reduction of CO2 emissions through the use of wind.

- Reduced dependence on fossil fuels.

- Raising awareness of environmental issues and promoting sustainable solutions.

Challenges of sailing cargo ships:

- High initial costs due to innovative technologies and materials.

- Speed and capacity limitations compared to traditional ships.

- The need for specific training and skills for sailing.

- Market acceptance and adoption by shipping companies.

As technology continues to advance and environmental regulations become more stringent, it is possible that some of these challenges will be mitigated, making sailing freighters more viable and attractive to the shipping industry.


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