Eco-friendly ship recalls glorious maritime past

A design concept for a cargo ship of the future has drawn inspiration from maritime history. The idea is to create a fleet of sailing cargo ships that will be 100 percent fossil fuel free.

Originating in Britain, a nation with a rich and colorful naval history, the concept sounds a lot like a return to the era that prefigured steam ships, when sailing ships were the only way of moving cargo across the seas.

However, the ships are somewhat more advanced than a good-old fashioned schooner. Featuring a state of the art dyna-rig sail propulsion system and off the shelf Rolls-Royce engines powered by waste derived liquid biomethane (liquid gas), the ships are the brainchild of B9 Shipping.

The company, which is part of the B9 Energy group, has already started work on a full-scale demonstration vessel.

Meanwhile a testing program is under way at the University of Southampton’s Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics.

The testing program, which began this month, will use tow tank and wind tunnel research to create a hull design to compliment the dyna-rig system. Using scale models it will attempt to calibrate thrust caused by the sailing rig under various conditions to come up with the optimum hull design.

B9 Shipping said the design would also have to take into account loading and unloading at dockside.

“We are designing B9 Ships holistically as super-efficient new builds transferring technology from offshore yacht racing combined with the most advanced commercial naval architecture,” Diane Gilpin, director of B9 Shipping, explained in a statement.

“We’re combining proven technologies in a novel way to develop ‘ready-to-go’ future-proof and 100 per cent fossil fuel free ships. This approach means financial investment and crucially, garnering support and furthering understanding with the shipping sector that there is a need for urgent change and through collaboration we can create viable commercially successful solutions.”

Of course, this is not the first attempt to return sails to cargo ships in a bid to cut fossil fuel use.

Launched earlier this year, the Wind Challenger project aims to prove that creating hybrid ships that employ both sails and engines could reduce annual fuel consumption of the shipping industry by about 30 percent on average.

A more eccentric plan to green up the cargo industry came from Skysails, based in Hamburg. The company has developed a patented  system which uses a kite to propel large shipping vessels across the sea. The wind-harnessing propulsion system, in theory, could end up reducing fuel consumption by an impressive 35%.

The system involves a monstrous 3,444 square foot kite, which is attached, via rope, to a control pod that electronically manipulates the kite to maximize potential wind benefits. The kite itself flies anywhere from 300 to 1,300 feet in the air, whipping around in a figure 8 formation. Minnesota based shipping firm Cargill plan to install one of the kites on a vessel next year.

Paul Willis, EarthTechling