Sails are back!
Perhaps not in the same dramatic fashion as galleys cleaving through swells under billowing canvases stretched from masts towering overhead.
But it doesn’t matter, it’s all the same, as the principle of wind power applies.
What’s more is that the Sea Zhousan, a 325 000-deadweight-tonnage very large ore carrier (VLOC), has officially become the largest vessel in shipping history to be equipped with sails, and it doesn’t take deckhands scampering up masts to do the unfurling.
The newbuild, soon to be presented to Brazilian miner Vale, has five 25-metre-high automated rotors affixed to its deck.
Designed by Finnish clean-tech company Norsepower, the sails, fitted with hydraulic cylinders, are tiltable to ensure they lean into the wind, maximising their harnessing power.
The sails aren’t easily let down though, as technologically exact measuring equipment strikes the right balance between fuel vs wind propulsion before shifting between guzzling fuel and gusting wind.
Should the sails indeed be used, it could ramp up efficiency by up to 8% and eliminate CO2 emissions by as much as 3 400 tons.
Although still in its testing phase, the 340-metre-long Sea Zhousan could serve as a precursor to Vale’s future charters, said Rodrigo Bermelho, the company’s shipping technical manager.
If successful, as much as 40% of the ore miner’s chartered fleet will henceforth sport rotor sails like the ones found aboard the 62-metre-wide Sea Zhoushan.
Norsepower CEO Tuomas Riski told maritime journalist Sam Chambers: “Installing our rotor sails on the first VLOC demonstrates that our technology is adaptable across varied operational profiles and vessel types. As vessel operators and charterers strive to decarbonise, the value of wind propulsion for both a retrofit and newbuild vessels is undeniable.”