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November 30, 2023

World’s first rigid wind sails ready for testing and installation on the MOL Bulker.

By Priti Naik

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) has completed the construction of the world’s first rigid wind sail, which will be installed on the under-construction bulk carrier scheduled to start service later this year. The completion of the first structure represents a significant step forward in what began as an academic research effort 11 years ago and is now being tested by MOL in order to incorporate it into major vessel designs.

The Concept is known as Wind Challenger Project that will add a hard sail to large vessels to offer extra wind energy to propulsion. When completely raised at sea, the composite hard sail is about 170 feet tall, but it can be lowered to allow the ship to pass through overhead obstacles or while docked in port for loading and unloading.

According to MOL, adding wind power to a vessel’s propulsion system can lower greenhouse gas emissions by five to eight percent when compared to conventional ships of the same class. The first assembly was completed in collaboration with the Oshima shipyard, which is also building the bulker to which it will be fitted in the project’s next phase. The sail is currently being tested on the shoreline.

In addition to the first bulker being built to operate for Tohoku Electric, MOL has stated that it is also working with its long-term customer Enviva, a global renewable energy company specializing in sustainable wood bioenergy, to develop and deploy an environmentally friendly bulk carrier. MOL has said that it is also working together with Indian company Tata Steel to develop an environment-friendly bulk carrier to transport raw materials to the steel mills. Both of these vessel designs also incorporate the Wind Challenger.

MOL also announced late in 2021 that it was studying with mining giant Vale International the use of wind propulsion systems employing rotor sails on large bulk carriers. Where they have been focusing on vessels under 100,000 dwt for the rigid sail, the study with Vale is exploring the use of rotor sails manufactured by UK-based Anemoi Marine Technologies on a 200,000-ton class in-service bulk carrier. These ultra-large vessels mainly transport iron ore for steel production.

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