A Swedish shipbuilder is making waves by going back to the future with its wind-powered, environmentally friendly car carrier. Wallenius Marine is designing the sleek, 650-foot “Oceanbird,” the world’s largest wind-powered vessel, with support from the Swedish government and research institutes. But don’t look for billowing sails on the megaship, which will carry 7,000 vehicles. Instead, five telescopic “wing sails” that resemble tall buildings without windows will rise 260 feet from the hull and rotate to harness the wind.
Wallenius says Oceanbird, which relies on an auxiliary engine to get in and out of ports, will emit 90% less atmosphere-heating carbon dioxide than conventional carriers. Those carriers burn an average of 40 tons of fuel a day, belching 120 tons of CO2, the amount emitted by a car driven 270,000 miles.
The shipping industry faces mounting pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations’ International Maritime Organization, which regulates global shipping, has mandated that the industry halve toxic emissions by 2050.
Oceanbird travels slower than conventional carriers, lengthening the transatlantic voyage from seven to 12 days. But Wallenius says the environmental benefits justify the tradeoff.
“Thousands of years have passed since we learned to harness the wind so that oceangoing vessels could travel faster and farther,” Wallenius says. “The wind helped us discover our planet. Now it can help us preserve it.”
Photo from Wallenius Marine.