Wind-Assisted Propulsion Takes Center Stage

As the shipping industry searches for new ways to reduce its environmental impact, wind-assisted propulsion is emerging as a surprising but powerful contender. Wind-assisted technologies, including rotating sails, kite sails and rigid sails, can be installed onboard vessels, enabling them to sail using renewable energy. This reduces ships’ reliance on conventional propulsion, limiting harmful emissions and minimizing their environmental footprint.

Exploring wind propulsion for a range of vessels

While tankers, passenger ships and large yachts account for most of today’s wind-assisted ships, marine stakeholders are looking to install sails onboard other vessels, notably cargo ships and containerships. Early-stage projects—including a handful of pilots—are already underway to address the technical challenges of wind-assisted propulsion.

Bureau Veritas is currently working with Zéphyr & Borée and Jifmar Offshore Services on the Canopée project, which aims to build a 121-meter, wind-propelled cargo vessel. The ship will have four fully automated wing sails supported by a 30-meter mast, and will transport components of the Ariane 6 satellite launcher from Europe to French Guyana. In addition to relying on wind-propulsion, the vessel will also be dual-fuel LNG-powered, further reducing its emissions.

New rules and notations for wind propulsion

For the moment, there are still regulatory questions surrounding wind-assisted propulsion, as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has not yet produced official rules or guidelines.

To help clients move forward with wind-assisted propulsion, Bureau Veritas has released updated classification rules that provide a classification framework for wind propulsion systems (WPS).

Our updated rules address safety and reliability from the design review stage through installation and operations, including survey regimes and maintenance requirements. To comply with WPS rules, ships must undergo a risk analysis, determine local and general ship strength, and define load cases, automation and release systems.

In addition to updating our rules, Bureau Veritas is developing two new notations for wind-assisted propulsion, to be published in July. Our WPS-1 notation is for wind-powered ships with standing rigging, while WPS-2 is applied to vessels with both standing and running rigging. Both notations provide load cases and coefficients for numerous wind technologies, including freestanding rigs, wing sails, kite sails and wind turbines.

A key element in maritime decarbonization

Wind-assisted propulsion is a high-potential solution that can contribute to the long-term decarbonization of the marine industry. For ship owners and shipyards looking to pursue this exciting alternative technology, Bureau Veritas is committed to providing the necessary support. We aim to offer the classification solutions for safety, reliability and performance that will help industry stakeholders incorporate wind-assisted propulsion into their energy transition plans.

Photo Credit: Ayro