Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Maritime Propulsion

September 11, 2023

Econowind Targets Growth With New Investors

(Image: Econowind)

Dutch company Econowind, manufacturer of sail propulsion systems for commercial ships, announced it has gained the backing of two new investors. The Investment and Development Agency for the Northern Netherlands (NOM) and Horizon Flevoland are investing to help accelerate the company's growth.

Econowind builds so-called VentoFoils, which it describes as a vertical aircraft wing that converts wind into forward thrust of the ship. Manufactured in Zeewolde and Warten, the systems enable shipowners to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30% while slashing emissions.

“We have been developing for five years and are now facing major growth,” said the company's managing director Frank Nieuwenhuis.

The 16-meter aluminum VentoFoil, which is suited for the shortsea market, is produced at the Zeewolde factory. “But we are now also collaborating with Bijlsma shipyard in Warten, where we are building the 30-meter high steel VentoFoils, which are perfect for large oceangoing vessels. We expect a lot of growth to come from this sector as well. With this full range of wind sails, we can serve various market segments and further expand our international leading position.”

With new capital from NOM and Horizon Flevoland, Econowind can scale up production. Nieuwenhuis said, “In 2027, we will make at least one every day: in Zeewolde, Warten and at another location in the world. With over 50,000 active seagoing vessels, the market is incredibly large.”

“In addition, we are further automating the control systems. Now the sails go up automatically and when the wind is too strong, they fold in. The crew is not involved with operating the VentoFoils. And soon customers will be able to get even more efficiency out of the VentoFoils due to Artificial Intelligence. Information about the wind will be integrated into the models. We will convert the wind forecast into direct advice on the most optimal sailing route. That means deviating from the shortest route to go faster with the wind.”

Environmental legislation for oceangoing vessels is becoming stricter. With the introduction of the CO2 tax in 2024, shipowners want to accelerate sustainability. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is aiming for 40% CO2 reduction for shipping. “The time is ripe: sustainability is high on the agenda in the industry. Shipping companies are striving for fuel economy: wind propulsion is a proven and fuel-independent solution. The payback time for current ships is around five years. With the VentoFoils, ships can reduce fuel consumption by up to 30% at voyage level.”

VentoFoils can be installed on existing ships or integrated onto newbuild vessels, and in recent years Econowind has installed and extensively tested 16 wings.

“Meanwhile, we have reduced the production time of a 16-meter wing to a few months. This is very fast in this industry. We want to be able to deliver quickly because our customers ask for this. You can see the confidence of the market reflected in the order book,” Nieuwenhuis said.

For NOM, the participation is logical for several reasons, said investment manager Allard ter Horst: “Making the maritime sector more innovative and sustainable is one of our spearheads. Production in Warten, Friesland, gets the north of the Netherlands really involved. Econowind already has contracts with shipyards and ship owners at home and abroad. With a mature team, the company makes products that are super interesting for the maritime future. We are happy to be part of that. Moreover, it leads to employment in the region. We welcome that.”

Inge Verschuur of Horizon Flevoland said, “We expect that the company can grow very fast in the short term. That is why Econowind fits into our Growth Fund. We are impressed by the team, and by the other shareholders, who also provide expert advice. Innovation is a spearhead for us, of course, but we are also there to help achieve growth. In that respect, we think Econowind is an inspiring example and we have high expectations.”