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IWSA begins testing the use of sails on large ships

August 29, 2021

After positive results from its latest pilot projects involving smaller vessels, the International Windship Association (IWSA) has announced that shipowners are testing different types of wind propulsion on larger vessels, such as cargo ships and tankers, to reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

IWSA currently has about 15 wind propulsion installations on the vessels of ship owners wishing to experiment with sails before equipping their entire fleet with this type of propulsion.

With less than 1% of new vessels now equipped with sails, the future of wind propulsion for shipping looks big and bright, according to Gavin Allwright, Secretary General of IWSA, who is confident about the outcome of testing aboard larger ships given the knowledge acquired to date.

« The European Union recently estimated that 15% of the world’s commercial fleet – between 60,000 and 100,000 ships, depending on the threshold at which a cargo ship is considered large – would partially be powered by wind by 2030, » Allwright adds.

While sails can provide 10% to 20% of the power, their use does involve trade-offs for shipowners, including the significant costs of installing sails and adjusting routes and speed in accordance with available wind.

Container ships are the only type of vessel not currently involved in wind power testing because the sails would take up precious deck space. This drawback could be resolved by using kites for the wind propulsion, a possible solution now being tested in Japan.