- Transport shipping may undergo a further change with the development of the flettner rotor systems for cargo vessels, The Loadstar reported last week.
- Flettner rotor systems rely upon a spinning cylinder which converts the force of wind into enough thrust to propel a ship. A study funded by the Energy Technologies Institute insists that wind power is the strongest alternative for reducing CO2 emissions.
- For the new technology to succeed, carriers must not only be able to retrofit their ships with the rotors, but also be assured of the cost savings to ensue. A ship owner must also be able to finance the changeover.
With pressure mounting to decrease greenhouse gas emissions rates from 3.5% to 0.5% within the shipping industry, wind energy may provide a viable option for renewable power.
Wind power systems have the potential to reduce between 3.5 to 7.5 million tons of CO2 if the industry installs between 3,700 and 10,700 systems by 2030, both in new ships and by retrofitting, American Shipper reports.
With transport shipping found to be one of the world's worst polluters at last year's Paris Climate Conference, the introduction of a new source of power could be positively received, were the shipping industry not already nearly on its knees in terms of costs. The fact that the cost of retrofitting will fall upon already struggling ship owners makes adoption somewhat unlikely given the high capital costs, no matter how much an owner may wish to comply with international regulations.
Therefore, the installation of flettner rotors may become an environmental selling point only for the largest lines, or those that specialize in sustainability. At this stage, with so many carriers recording losses due to declining trade volumes and low rates, such improvements may be a pipe dream without more active enforcement.
A silver lining: it may fall upon the shipbuilders to install the systems, and while scrapping rates remain high due to industry overcapacity, the larger lines have yet to cease ordering new ships. The additional benefit of wind power is to decrease the reliance on oil, beyond the sustainability benefits.