The shipping industry is exploring the use of wind power to help protect the environment. However, while shipping companies abroad can afford to do so, the Philippine shipping industry must first focus on upgrading its ships.

In addition, wind powered ships may not be as feasible in the country due to the lack of wind strength in many areas in it.

Wind-powered ships
When asked about the possibilities of wind-powered ships in the Philippine maritime industry, Christopher Barcelo, a former instructor of Marine Engineering at the University of Cebu Maritime Education and Training Center explains:

“No, we are not yet ready (for the technology). First, our ships are too old, and well, to be honest, it runs only when it runs. Abroad, like with Maersk, it’s doable because their maintenance system is complete and impressive. Here in our country, ship engines are repaired and maintained only when there’s already something wrong with it. Though there are dry dock schedules, which is mandatory, they only prioritize the most important items to repair, not general overhauls or replacements.”
When asked about passenger liners, he states that even they are not ready for the technology. “Remember Dona Paz of Sulpicio Lines? That liner was already in service since 1946. Its name changed many times over. The liner sank in the 1980s. Well, the ship is already an antique.”

This is a sad state of affairs for Philippine maritime, but there are things to be considered before a project of this magnitude takes root. Captain Ramon Mejares, a master mariner, explains:

“Of course, wind power can be done. It has been done in the past, but would it be commercially viable (here)? In the northern part of the earth, yes, because of the abundance of wind but in the tropics where there are ‘calm areas,’ it poses a problem. The best way is selective use of wind power.”

“Not all parts of the world have abundant winds. Depending also on the seasons, wind energy is best used in areas where there is always moderate to strong winds. Tropical areas are normally having long periods of calm so wind energy usage is minimal. Wind energy also is best used in the big oceans where there are no obstructions. Not in an archipelago like ours.”

Technology in the global shipping industry

Norsepower Oy’s CEO, Tuomas Riski, earnestly thinks that wind-powered ships will take to the seas again. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), however, bucked the idea just recently. Despite the setback, Norsepower has the Estradento prove its point.

With clean and boundless renewable energy from wind power, the maritime industry is about to rediscover its holy grail yet again. The ‘rotor sail’ is not an original idea. It was German engineer Anton Flettner who first came out with the concept on paper. Tuomas Riski simply rebooted the idea, with the maritime industry currently producing 2.2 percent carbon emissions daily on a global scale. A call to action has to be made as a necessary recourse.

Luckily, the technology is real. Installed on top of ships like the RMS Titanic’s funnels, its spinning cylinders harness the power of the wind. The difference in pressure between the front and rear sails gives the ship its forward thrust, known as the ‘Magnus Effect.’ Moreover, its contemporary version sets a new spin on the Flettner original by including a rotor sail reversal mechanism: a tweak where rotor sails direction can be reversed when wind direction changes or reverses.

Estraden as reference point

The Estraden, owned by Bore Limited, was officially the very first recipient of Norsepower’s rotor sails tech in 2015. It was crucial to gauge the product’s direction after sea-trials determine rotor sails efficiency and fuel savings performance. The VTT Technical Research Center of Finland and NAPA, a software development company for ships, provided the statistical figures for analysis to see the bigger picture clearly.

Accumulated data is used to determine cost efficiency. As NAPA verified and confirmed a 2.6 percent fuel savings with just a single, small rotor sail, Norsepower and BoreLimited now firmly believe that a full system- two rotor combo can yield a much better output potential of 5 percent on an ongoing basis.

Further on, inspired by very impressive statistical data, the companies daringly forecasted that with multiple large rotor sail retrofits installed, a yield of as much as 20 percent on potential fuel savings on favorable wind routes can be achieved. For the time being, however, fuel saving projections may not reach that 100 percent target yet, but any percentage on fuel reduction is good enough to warrant a cut on emissions.

With the success of Estraden, Norsepower now trained its sights on Maersk, the world’s largest container ship and supply vessel operator. In 2018, both companies use a 245-meter cargo tanker for a ‘wind power’ trial run.

The rotor sails to be installed on the Maersk tanker are light and modern but are 30 meters tall and 5 meters wide. This will officially be the first and largest rotor sails to be installed on a tanker. Unlike Estraden, however, Maersk’s rotor sails are powered by electricity to create rotation, taking 5kw of energy to make it happen. This exertion will generate 3MW worth of thrust per sail. Luckily, Norsepower’s rig has two. The thrust won’t be enough to drive the vessel forward, but it will save about 10 percent of fuel in the long run, according to Norsepowerestimates. Moreover, these types of vessels can be fitted with more sails, depending on their properties and capacity to perform.

Credits to: The Manila Times

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