rotors sails boats

The Maersk shipping company could open a new breach in the shipbuilding industry for conventional sailboats with its decision to test the operation of a wind propulsion system based on rotor sails that if everything goes as planned, could reduce fuel consumption by up to 10% on the usual sea routes.

This initiative, the first in the world in which this wind propulsion mechanism will be installed in an oil tanker, is being developed, in addition to the shipping company, by the Institute of Energy Technologies (ETI), Shell and Norsepower, a Finnish cleantech company that developed the Norsepower Rotor Sail Solution, a contemporary and therefore more efficient version of the Flettner rotor. Already in 1926, this German engineer succeeded in setting sail a ship equipped with this system.

With this work developed almost a century ago as a starting point, in this solution and in the ability to take advantage of the wind “As an additional source of energy to generate renewable energies and allow a reduction in fuel consumption” do many believe to be the “Next step for the shipping industry”, as the company promoting the system explains in this video.


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How do these rotor sails work?

Basically the system consists of a rotating cylinder which, thanks to the Magnus effect, uses wind energy to propel the ship. In favorable wind conditions, the rotor sails slow down the motors. This saves fuel and reduces emissions while maintaining cruising speed.

Installed for the first time in 2014, the system can be used in new designs or incorporated into ships already underway. According to the Finnish company, some types of ships that can be equipped with this technology to evolve towards more sustainable navigation are Ro-Ro, bulk carriers, cruise ships and tankers, like those of Maersk.

“We are delighted to collaborate with Maersk, Sell and ETI on this project.”, explains Norsepower chief Tuomas Riski, who believes these tests “Open the market to this technology (…) and show it path to energy efficiency in maritime transport and, ultimately, reduce emissions, including greenhouse gas emissions “. The wind, he continues, is an abundant and free source of energy which “It has a role to play in reducing fuel consumption in the industry” Logistics.

To move forward in this line, and as part of this pioneering project, Maersk will supply an LR2 tanker which will be equipped with two rotor sails 30 meters high and five in diameter. This initiative is mainly funded by the British institute ETI. From this institution, Andrew Scott, one of its managers, considers that this system “Has potential” significantly reduce the fuel consumption of ships. “It is one of the fuel saving technologies that can offer a double digit percentage improvement”, explains before stressing the importance of having these tests carried out at a time when “To date, there has not been enough large-scale testing to demonstrate the benefits of this type of technology and its impact on operations.”

Although the project is already sealed, there is still time for Maersk tankers to equip themselves with this system and, with it, to obtain more reliable data on its fuel saving potential. If all goes according to plan, the rotor sails will be set in the first half of 2018. A trial period at sea which will last until the end of 2019, when the data collected will indicate the potential of this system to evolve towards a more sustainable maritime transport industry.