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Clean Power B9 cargo ship uses wind power

Published on June 22nd, 2012 | by Tina Casey


Wind Powered Cargo Ship Sails Like a Luxury Yacht

June 22nd, 2012 by  

B9 cargo ship uses wind powerA futuristic wind powered cargo ship is in the works, and it sports sails modeled after one of the largest luxury yachts in the world, the Maltese Falcon. If it proves successful, the new B9 cargo ship could usher in a new era of fossil fuel–free technology at a critical time for the shipping industry, which is facing the prospect of soaring greenhouse gas emissions as the global import-export market trends upwards.

Shipping cargo with wind power

The B9 is the brainchild of Ireland-based B9 Shipping, part of the B9 Energy group. The rigid sail design actually predates the Maltese Falcon; called Dyna-rig, the foundational technology dates back to the 1960’s.

The advantages of Dyna-rig over canvas sail are numerous. Aside from durability, the electronically operated system requires no rigging lines or hand operation, and it responds quickly to changing wind conditions.

B9 Shipping notes that the Maltese Falcon has crossed the Atlantic twice and has achieved a top speed of 24.9 knots using a Dyna-rig system.

Sailing on biogas

B9 Shipping also notes that the Maltese Falcon only uses its sails about 61 percent of the time. The yacht’s auxiliary power is provided by biogas, and that’s where the B9 Energy group will come in.

B9 plans to manufacture biogas for the cargo ship primarily from a food waste stream, which will power an “off-the-shelf” Bergen gas engine from Rolls Royce.


Next steps to wind-powered cargo ships

The University of Southampton’s Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics will be conducting a detailed series of studies as work on the new ship progresses, including economic feasibility as well as performance studies on various hull shapes.

The final design will also take into account the work flow of the shipping industry — namely, loading and unloading cargo.

However, if B9 wants to produce the world’s first fleet of commercially viable wind powered cargo ships, it better get a move on. Last year a company called Eco Marine Power unveiled a rigid sail design for cargo ships that incorporates solar panels, and just last month the University of Tokyo proposed a design for cargo ships powered with low cost metal sails.

Image: Courtesy of B9 Shipping

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • BB

    what is the dimension of this ship?

  • .Very cool…….funny how man’s early technology comes back around, with a new twist, and then due to a few new ideas, can become a competitive technology.
    I do, however, question this type of sail’s ability to withstand stronger winds…asn it would seem impossible to “trim the sails” to prevent absorbing too much kinetic energy. It would be helpful to understand what means there are to to this.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Can’t tell that much from the drawing above, but the “battens” look pretty large.  They could be furling booms which would let each section roll up like a window shade.

      I was sort of right.  Here’s what the wiki page says about the Maltese Falcon’s rig…

      “. The DynaRig is effectively a square rig, the mast is freestanding and the yards are connected rigidly to the mast. In this case each mast supports six yards. The yards, unlike a conventional square rigger, have built-in camber of 12%. The sails are set between the yards in such a way that when deployed there are no gaps to the sail plan, enabling each mast’s sail plan to work as a single sail. The sails, when not deployed, furl into the mast. The sail is trimmed to the wind direction by rotating the mast. As there is no rigging, the yards have no restriction on rotation and this, taken together with the curved (shaped) yards, low windage and effective single-piece sail, combine to give the rig improved aerodynamic efficiency compared to a traditional square rigger.”

      • RobS

        YouTube the Maltese falcon, the control and furling of her sails is quick and infinitely adjustable, it really is a nautical engineering masterpiece of great beauty.

  • Jim

    If the mock up is anything to go by, it’s also quite evocative of long passed eras of ships.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Reminds me of Chinese junks with the fixed battens….

  • Rahulprabhurr

    Solar sail, and Australian based company is doing the same..


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