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Finnish firm aims to put wind in shipping industry's sails

Finnish cleantech firm Norsepower claims its rotor sail technology will help the shipping industry become environmentally friendlier. This week the company announced that a pair of its tall, cylindrical sails will be installed for long-term trials on a Maersk Tankers vessel in 2018.

Havainnekuva, jossa erottuu Viking Graceen asennetteva roottoripurje.
Artist's rendering: Viking Line's cruise ship Grace, which shuttles between Turku, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden is scheduled to be outfitted with a Norsepower rotor sail in 2018. File photo. Image: Norsepower

Instead of large shipping vessels using dirty fossil fuels to traverse the world's oceans, Finnish cleantech firm Norsepower wants to help them harness the wind.

In favourable wind conditions, the company says its rotor sails help ships use less fuel - without losing speed.

The sails are a modernized version of the Flettner rotor – a spinning cylinder that harnesses wind power to propel a ship.

The technology itself is not new and was invented about one hundred years ago, but at the time rotor sails could not compete with diesel fuel. These days, maritime transport is responsible for about 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Maritime Association.

Long-term trial

Norsepower plans to test out the rotors on a tanker owned by the Danish shipping giant Maersk Tankers in a long-term trial, which is set to start during the first half of 2018.

Maersk's 109,647-deadweight tonne tanker vessel will be retrofitted with two 30m tall by 5m diameter rotor sails, the company announced on Tuesday.

The trials will be undertaken in a partnership with Maersk, The Energy Technologies Institute, and Shell Shipping & Maritime, according to Norsepower.

Norsepower: Sails reduce fuel consumption by 10 percent

The company says that in the right wind conditions each sail can produce the thrust equivalent of 50kW of electricity - using only the wind.

When the sails are helping to push a vessel, the massive, fossil-fuel burning ship's engines can be turned down, saving both money and the environment. The company says the sails can provide fuel savings that range between seven and 10 percent.

The Maersk trials of the rotor sails are scheduled to start during the first half of 2018 and tests will continue until the end of 2019.

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