Cargo ship with WindWings saves three tonnes of fuel per day on first voyage

Wind-powered Pyxis Ocean WindWings Cargo Ship
The Pyxis Ocean embarks on its groundbreaking voyage, saving three tonnes of fuel daily with innovative WindWings. Images courtesy Cargill

In an innovative leap towards sustainability, a 43,000-tonne bulk freighter has completed a six-month sea trial, demonstrating a significant advancement in green shipping technologies. The trial marks a pivotal step in reducing the shipping industry’s environmental footprint by combining traditional diesel engines with cutting-edge automatic sails to harness wind power, potentially ushering in a new era of more efficient and less pollutive maritime transport.

Historically, the use of sail power alongside engines dates back to the inception of steamships, with early mariners reluctant to rely solely on the nascent technology of steam engines for ocean crossings. Over time, as engine technology evolved and the demands of shipping schedules intensified, the prominence of sails in commercial shipping waned. Yet, the concept of augmenting engine power with wind never entirely vanished. The idea of reintroducing sails, not as the primary propulsion method but as a supplementary one to cut fuel use and emissions, has remained appealing.

The Singapore-flagged Pyxis Ocean, operated by MC Shipping Kamsarmax and chartered by Cargill, was retrofitted with two WindWings developed by BAR Technologies for this purpose.

Unlike traditional sails, these 37.5-meter tall WindWings are made of steel and glass fibers, designed to fold and adjust automatically to wind conditions without requiring constant manual adjustments. This technology represents a modern reimagining of sail power, aimed at supplementing the vessel’s diesel engines by utilizing wind power to achieve fuel savings and reduce emissions.

Wind-powered Pyxis Ocean WindWings Height
The WindWing towers at an impressive height of 37.5 meters.

During its journey, which spanned the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, North and South Atlantic, and included navigating around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, the Pyxis Ocean demonstrated the potential of wind-assisted propulsion. The vessel’s WindWings, which are activated and adjusted through a simple traffic light system on the bridge, allowed for a reduction in diesel consumption by supplementing engine power with wind, leading to significant fuel savings and emission reductions.

According to reports from Cargill, the integration of WindWings technology enabled the Pyxis Ocean to save an average of three tonnes of fuel per day, resulting in an 11.2-tonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions daily—equivalent to the impact of removing 480 cars from the road for the same period. This translates to an overall fuel saving of 14%, a testament to the effectiveness of wind-assisted propulsion in enhancing shipping efficiency and sustainability.

Wind-powered Pyxis Ocean WindWings Parts
A WindWing consists of three parts: a central section 10 meters wide flanked by two 5-meter wide elements, all working in harmony.

Highlighting the trial’s success, John Cooper, CEO of BAR Technologies, remarked, “The results of the Pyxis Ocean’s first voyage with WindWings installed clearly demonstrate that wind-assisted propulsion can secure significant fuel savings and emissions reduction. For example, in near-optimum sailing conditions, during an open sea voyage, the Pyxis Ocean achieved fuel savings of 11 tonnes per day. And while the Pyxis Ocean has two WindWings, we anticipate the majority of Kamsarmax vessels will carry three wings, further increasing the fuel savings and emissions reductions by a factor of 1.5. With Cargill, we are now able to validate our performance predictions and modeling in real-world conditions, it’s an exciting time as we begin to roll out WindWings production globally.”

Cargo Ship Multiple WindWings
The two WindWings on the Pyxis Ocean saved three tonnes of fuel daily, a figure that could increase by 1.5 times with an additional WindWing.

The initiative to make wind-assisted propulsion compatible with global shipping operations marks a critical step towards broader adoption. This sea trial not only showcases the tangible benefits of integrating sustainable technologies into maritime shipping but also aligns with the growing imperative to mitigate environmental impacts within the industry.

Source: Cargill