UK company Smart Green Shipping (SGS) has launched a £5m R&D project for its fully automated FastRigs wing sail technology and digital routing software that will harness wind power to deliver major fuel and emissions savings for the shipping industry.
The collaborative three-year programme has been made possible by a £3.2m investment from the private sector, which unlocked a further £1.8m grant from Scottish Enterprise.
SGS founder Diane Gilpin said: “Scotland’s decision to support this project shows that wind technology has the might of a maritime nation behind it. Shipping has a long history of harnessing the power of wind, but digital technologies are allowing us to work towards making zero emission vessels a reality. Smart Green Shipping’s FastRig wing sail technology offers a financially and technically robust solution to help support shipping’s green transition.”
Scottish Business Minister Ivan McKee said: “The FastRig project is an excellent example of how innovation can help us progress in low carbon technologies and ensure Scotland is playing its part in these developments, creating more green jobs and business opportunities to take us on a Mission Zero for transport.”
Over the course of the project SGS will initially test its FastRig wing sails at a land based site at Peel Ports Hunterston Port and Resource Centre in collaboration with Clyde-based specialist engineering partner Malin. It will further develop its weather routing TradeWind software that creates route plans for wind optimisation. Following successful land based tests, a demonstrator on board a vessel is expected to be tested by 2023.
Major industry partners include Drax, Malin, Peel Ports and Lloyd’s Register (LR), who, alongside SGS’s naval architects, consulted with crews and marine engineers, and have already optimised the technology and design to ensure easy retrofitting and cargo access during port operations. LR has granted first stage Approval in Principle for the FastRig technology.
Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax Group, said: “Reducing emissions from global shipping will be one of the key challenges of the energy transition. Drax has been a long term partner of Smart Green Shipping because we’re excited by their wind assisted sail technologies and the impact these technologies could have on our supply chain.”
Tom Wolodarsky, LR Technical Authority for Wind Propulsion Systems, said: “LR is dedicated to supporting the development and safe adoption of green technologies that
will contribute to decarbonising the maritime sector and the FastRig wing sail technology will help shipowners with the transition ahead. We have now successfully completed the first stage of Approval in Principle of the technology which can assist in providing assurance to industry and demonstrate WAPS technology is a safe, viable option which follows well established, independent standards.”
The FastRig technology is expected to benefit up to 40,000 vessels in the global merchant fleet – primarily bulker and tanker ships. Modelling tests, undertaken by SGS in conjunction with the University of Southampton’s Wolfson Unit, show that the technology could create at least at least 20% fuel savings and GHG reductions for retrofits, with as much as 50% fuel savings possible for small and medium sized new build ships. Malin Equipment will provide manufacturing capability and specialist engineering input for the FastRig demonstrator
Malin director Ben Potter said: “This is a perfect fit for Malin Equipment – an innovative project that enables us to draw on our deep maritime engineering experience to build on local inventiveness to create rugged, robust and reliable equipment. It is straightforward to retrofit and provides real short-term emissions solutions for global shipping to revolutionise the industry.”
The three-year project will address barriers to wider industry uptake to the technology, with a host of technical, digital and financing solutions. In addition to creating agreements with renewables finance providers to fund installations of the technology onboard ships, the SGS team is developing insurance products that will give confidence of predictable financial returns to commercial operators.
The TradeWind tool has been optimised to gather data that will allow vessels to maximise the use of wind for a journey and optimise a vessel’s routing to minimise fuel consumption and arrive at a port at a designated time – ensuring compatibility with Just In Time arrival operations. Data from Tradewind can be used to underpin charter agreements as well as secure private funding to lease the technology. The FastRigs technology has been developed alongside industry, with a year-long InnovateUK and Institute of Mechanical Engineers-backed feasibility study in 2018 and in-depth consultations with the wider shipping industry to overcome obstacles to adopting the innovation, including funding mechanisms. SGS developed its digital tools to predict and optimise wind-use in shipping in collaboration with the European Space Agency business incubation centre in 2019.