Winds of change are coming to the shipping industry, through an innovative French company.
Winds of change are coming to the shipping industry, through an innovative French company that’s partnered with Renault Group to build two international cargo ships powered by high-tech sails.
“The need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollutants can only be achieved by reducing hydrocarbon consumption,” says Michel Péry, the president of the Neoline company in Nantes. “This reduction requires an engineer’s approach, but also that of a logistician and a sailor in order to make the most of a technique that is directly available and uses inexhaustible energy.”
Yes, sailing, and Captain Péry is a man who would know. He spent 25 years in command of merchant marine cargo ships, many of them “ro-ro” vessels so named because they’re designed for transporting vehicles that are driven on and off the ship. That’s a natural fit for Renault, which says it sends about 60 percent of its finished vehicles, parts and components around the world via marine transportation.
Yet Péry also spent time on the Belem, a three-mast French tall ship built in the late 19th century. It began life shipping sugar from the West Indies, but is now used as a sailing school, living maritime museum and attraction. Between the two experiences, Péry developed a vision for wind in a new era.
Péry and his partners have designed a hybrid cargo ship, 136 meters long and 24.2 meters wide, with a project spec of 4,200 square meters of sail surface added to the usual deadweights and displacements. The high-tech sails are optimized for aerodynamic performance and retractable for port operations. They serve as main propulsion, with a 4000 kW auxiliary diesel-electric system to back it up.
When the sails are deployed at sea, they’re expected to reduce GHG emissions by up to 90 percent on an Atlantic Ocean crossing while eliminating the nitrogen and sulphur oxide pollution common to the shipping industry. Neoline expects the pilot runs to begin from Saint-Nazaire in western France, shipping to Charleston and Baltimore on the eastern coast of the United States, and then stopping in the St-Pierre and Miquelon territories before making its return journey across the Atlantic.
Neoline says the plan is two trips per month by 2021. As its first partner, Renault says the wind-driven cargo ships will help the company to achieve its goals of reducing its carbon footprint by six percent in 2022, from its 2016 baseline. The targeted reduction is 25 percent from 2010 levels.
For Neoline, it’s another step towards 2030 and their goals for a wide range of clean-energy maritime transport options.
“We are especially pleased that Groupe Renault, a key player in accessible and sustainable mobility for all, is the first partner to join us on board our journey by trusting in Neoline’s maritime transport solution,” said company CEO Jean Zanuttini. “Considering that the traditional sea freight accounts for nearly three percent of CO2 emissions in Europe, Neoline aims to build an innovative French solution to address a global environmental challenge while remaining within an industrial and competitive framework, with the support from its partners.”