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British startup bets wind-powered ships will cut carbon emissions

The maritime industry may have long since replaced sails with engines, but a UK start-up is betting that wind-powered ships still have a bright future.

Founded in 2014, Smart green shipping (SGS), has developed a new type of wind sail called FastRig that reduces CO2 emissions. According to the company, it can be retrofitted to existing commercial vessels with available deck space, without the need for additional crew to operate it or changes to port-side infrastructure. It is also retractable to allow for standard loading and unloading operations, and it is designed to be recyclable.

FastRig is linked to the startup’s software tool, TradeWind, which provides operational optimization when the vessels are up and running. It uses weather forecasts together with big data from The Met Office on wind, waves and currents to predict when wind propulsion can be provided, suggest the most optimal route and save fuel.

This is how it works:

Based on the company’s case studies using 3D modeling, FastRig, installed on an Ultrabulk vessel transporting biomass from Baton Rouge to Liverpool, can save 20% fuel each year.

Now SGS is working with the University of Southampton on a project called Winds of Change, funded by the UK Department for Transport and Innovate in an effort to decarbonise the country’s maritime sector.

“While new wind assist technologies are being developed, many of them are not yet ready for the market and their predicted fuel savings have not been independently verified at sea. That is why UK-funded research projects like this are so important,” said lead scientist Dr. Joseph Banks, of Southampton’s Marine and Maritime Institute, said in a rack.