This gigantic sailboat could use wind power to transport 7,000 cars


Innovative ways to live more sustainably are urgently needed, including in the way we ship items across the planet.

At present, 90 percent of goods around the world are transported by sea, and while it may be better for the environment than air freight according to certain measures, freighters are still powered by fossil fuels, so there is a lot of room for improvement.

In fact, emissions from cheap fossil fuels used in the shipping industry are believed to be responsible for about 2% of energy-related carbon emissions around the world – and the total amount continues to rise.

Today, researchers at a shipping company have designed a new type of cargo ship that will be able to ship large quantities of cargo while running entirely on wind power, reducing 90% of emissions typical of shipping. It’s called the OceanBird.

And it wouldn’t be a light, scaled-down freighter either – according to projections from the design company, Wallenius Marine, OceanBird would be capable of carrying 7,000 cars across the Atlantic.

The retractable wing sails are 80 meters (262 feet) high and will be controlled by algorithms that calculate exactly how to most efficiently use wind power on the ocean. An auxiliary engine, running on clean fuel, will be available for backup and for entering and exiting ports.

With a respectable average speed of 10 knots, the Oceanbird will be able to cross the Atlantic in about 12 days, according to its development team, while current ships can do it in about 8 days.

To craft the design, the researchers behind the ship used LiDAR scan technology similar to that found in self-driving cars to monitor the flow of wind as it moves over ships, up to 300 meters (984 feet) above deck level.

Based on no less than 35 million different measuring points, the company’s engineers have found that wind speeds vary less than previously thought.

Another important finding is that the design of the hull can impact the speed and direction of the wind, not just the sails of the ship.

The team then performed a combination of computer simulations and real-world testing with scale models to find out which design would be able to carry cargo across the ocean using only the power of the wind.

Best of all, the design can be applied to other types of gas-guzzling ships, including cruise ships.

“Our vision is to lead the way towards truly sustainable boating, and of course we want others to join us”, says Per Tunell, COO at Wallenius Marine.

“This is not a competition, but rather a direction we all need to take. By being transparent in the process, we want to inspire others to test the limit of what is possible.”

(Wallénius Marine)

However, it will take a little while to see the Oceanbird make its maiden voyage: the design of the ship will not be ready until the end of 2021 according to the company originally, while a fully built ship is not planned. to be released until 2024.

“Many reactions contain hope”, said Tunell. “Finally a solution that is real and will make a real contribution to slowing climate change. I think we are all hungry for positive news in this area.”

You can keep up to date with the development of Oceanbird at Wallenius Marine website.

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