Meet Canopée, a wind-powered cargo ship, designed to transport Europe’s largest rocket Ariane 6

Canopée: A Cargo Ship Driven by Sustainable Wind Power
Canopée: A Cargo Ship Driven by Sustainable Wind Power (Image: Neptune Marine)

The Innovative Canopée: A Glimpse into the Future of Shipping

Meet Canopée, a unique cargo ship with a height of 121 feet, thanks to its four sails. These sails, known as “Oceanwings,” cover a massive area of 16,000 square feet and provide a significant boost to the 3,150-ton ship when the wind is in its favor.

Even though Canopée primarily relies on diesel engines for power, its design offers a glimpse into the future of shipping. The Oceanwings, resembling aircraft wings when fully open, could potentially cut the ship’s fuel consumption in half. According to Nils Joyeux, the managing director of Alizés, the French company operating the ship, under optimal wind conditions, savings could range from 50% to 60%, but in some cases, it might be as low as 10% to 15%. Currently, they estimate an average savings of around 30%, with the need for a few more years of operation to confirm this projection.

The ship’s main mission is to transport parts of Ariane 6, Europe’s latest and largest space rocket set to launch in mid-2024. As the rocket components are produced in different facilities across Europe, Canopée plays a crucial role in delivering them to the European Space Agency’s spaceport in French Guiana, an overseas territory in South America.

Canopée recently completed its maiden transatlantic journey in early November, deploying its sails and carrying essential rocket parts. This marks a significant milestone in the final stages of the Ariane 6 program’s development.

Wind Propulsion: A Key Player in the Quest for Cleaner Shipping

Shipping is responsible for approximately 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and plays a crucial role in transporting about 90% of the world’s goods. The International Maritime Organization, the UN body regulating shipping, has recently set more ambitious climate targets. They now aim to achieve net-zero emissions by around 2050, with a target of at least a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2008 levels.

In the quest for cleaner shipping, wind propulsion, like the innovative Oceanwings on Canopée, could be a key player in meeting these environmental goals. Nils Joyeux from Alizés believes that wind energy will become increasingly competitive in the years to come. While wind power isn’t the sole solution for decarbonizing the shipping industry, it’s a significant and necessary part of the future. Ten years ago, the idea of putting sails back on cargo ships seemed like a gamble, but with many shipping companies now considering similar solutions, it has become an integral part of the industry’s future.

Canopée, constructed in Poland and launched in late 2022, has now returned to Europe after having its sails installed in the summer of 2023. With the capacity to move 5,000 tons of cargo at a speed of 16.5 knots, it will make twelve trips annually between the ports of Bremen, Rotterdam, Le Havre, and Bordeaux before reaching its final destination in Pariacabo, French Guiana.

The “Oceanwings,” crafted from sailcloth, are a flexible and efficient solution. Christiaan De Beukelaer, an expert in sailing cargo ships, notes that the sails can be easily adjusted from the bridge of the ship, allowing the crew to adapt to changing wind speeds. The design has its roots in the racing world, with the precursor to Oceanwings winning the America’s Cup in 2010. After this success, the racing yacht rig was adapted for use on ocean-going cargo ships.

While the design shows promise, it’s still early to determine which options will be most popular among shipping companies and crews, according to De Beukelaer. The experiment with Canopée and its Oceanwings marks a step towards more sustainable and eco-friendly shipping practices.

For the crew aboard Canopée, the day-to-day operations take on an extra layer of excitement with the presence of the innovative wingsails. Nils Joyeux, drawing from his experience as a former sailor, observes the enthusiasm among the Canopée crew, stating, “I can see that the crew on Canopée is very excited to work with the sails because it makes the routing of the ship more interesting. We must follow the weather, so each trip is unique and depends on the wind forecast.” This dynamic adds a unique dimension to their work, making each journey a distinct experience based on the ever-changing wind conditions.

Joyeux notes that, at present, the ship’s priority is to adhere to its scheduled arrival times rather than solely focusing on fuel savings. This means that if the wind isn’t sufficient, the ship will switch on its diesel engines to ensure timely arrivals. The integration of wind propulsion introduces a dynamic element to their operations, blending traditional navigation skills with modern technology to optimize both efficiency and reliability in cargo transport. The Canopée project reflects not only a commitment to environmental sustainability but also an adaptation of operational practices for a more engaging and responsive shipping experience.

Canopée arriving at Pariacabo harbor in November 2023. (Image: CNN Travel)
Canopée arriving at Pariacabo harbor in November 2023. (Image: CNN Travel)

The Global Trend of Wind-Assisted Cargo Ships: A Growing Movement

Gavin Allwright, the secretary-general of the International Windship Association, sheds light on the growing trend of wind-assisted cargo ships globally. Currently, there are 31 large ships (exceeding 400 tons of gross tonnage) equipped with wind-assisted propulsion, with an anticipated 20 more joining their ranks by year-end. Allwright highlights the remarkable acceleration in adoption, stating, “To put that in perspective, we took 12 years to reach the first 23 installations at the end of 2022, then likely just over 12 months to deliver the next 23 ships.” The expectation is to see a total of 100 such vessels by early 2025.

These wind-assisted ships employ a variety of technologies, with rotor sails—large, vertical spinning cylinders—as the most common. Additionally, hard sails inspired by aircraft wings, like those on the Pyxis Ocean, and giant kites soaring up to 1,000 feet above the water, are gaining popularity. Despite the growth, Christiaan De Beukelaer emphasizes that, considering the vast global fleet of around 60,000 large merchant ships, the overall impact of these vessels remains limited. Nevertheless, the adoption of wind propulsion brings a triple benefit by reducing fossil fuel use, decreasing the need for zero-emission fuels, and tapping into a free energy source immune to price fluctuations.

De Beukelaer acknowledges that assessing Canopée’s sustainability credentials will take time. Still, he underscores the initial accomplishment, stating, “Canopée exists, and it’s certainly helping ship owners and operators see that wind propulsion is an option they can invest in today to lower emissions on a very short timeline, particularly because retrofits are possible on most types of vessels.” He concludes, “Existing wind ships suggest that wind propulsion is a sound investment for both the bottom line of shipping companies and for the planet.” The gradual integration of wind-assisted technology represents a promising step towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in the shipping industry.

Google News Icon

Add Slash Insider to your Google News Feed

Source(s): CNN Travel

The information above is curated from reliable sources, modified for clarity. Slash Insider is not responsible for its completeness or accuracy. Please refer to the original source for the full article. Views expressed are solely those of the original authors and not necessarily of Slash Insider. We strive to deliver reliable articles but encourage readers to verify details independently.