Sunday, September 19, 2021
Maritime Propulsion

May 14, 2021

A Newbuild VLOC is the First Wind-powered Bulk Carrier

(Photo: Vale)

Brazilian miner Vale expects to soon put into service the first-ever bulk carrier propelled partially sails, the company said on Thursday.

The rotor sail-equipped newbuild, a very large ore carrier (VLOC) named Sea Zhoushan, is being built in China for owner by Pan Ocean Ship Management and will be chartered by Vale upon delivery in the coming days. Not only is Sea Zhoushan the first bulk carrier to be fitted with rotor sails, the 340-meter, 325,000 dwt vessel is also the largest ship ever to be outfitted with the fuel-saving and emissions-reducing technology, said manufacturer Norsepower.

The Finnish company estimates the five rotor sails installed on the deck of the Sea Zhoushan will enable an 8% efficiency gain and consequent reduction of up to 3,400 tons of CO2 per year. The cylindrical sails are 4 meters in diameter and 24 meters high, and they can be tilted by using hydraulic cylinders. "The five tilting rotor sails will allow Vale to maintain flexible cargo operations while also saving fuel and emissions," said Tuomas Riski, Norsepower CEO.

Norsepower's rotor sail solution is a modernized version of the Flettner rotor, a spinning cylinder that uses the Magnus effect to harness wind power to thrust a ship, thereby reducing fuel burn and emissions. The solution is fully automated and detects whenever the wind is strong enough to deliver fuel and emission savings, at which point the rotor sails start automatically.


"As vessel operators and charterers strive to decarbonize, the value of wind propulsion for both a retrofit and newbuild vessels is undeniable," Riski said. "The rotor sails can reduce a vessel’s energy efficiency design index (EEDI) and future-proof vessels against impending IMO greenhouse gas regulations as well as against inevitable fuel price increases as new fuels enter the market."

Rodrigo Bermelho, Vale's shipping technical manager, said, "We are committed to supporting the adoption of clean technology solutions for shipping to ensure that Vale’s sustainability objectives are achieved. Installing five Rotor Sails will maximize our fuel and emissions savings. We are working with Norsepower to ensure this new build is as environmentally friendly as possible and can achieve significant reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions."

According to Bermelho, if the project proves successful, at least 40% of the company's 114 Guiabamax and Valemax ships could also be retrofitted. "[This] would result in a reduction of almost 1.5% of Vale's annual iron ore maritime transport emissions," he said.

The start of operation of vessels equipped with rotor sails is one of Vale's several shipping environmental initiatives, including the adoption of air lubrication technology and multifuel vessels. The company said these actions contribute to achieving the commitment to reduce 15% of net Scope 3 emissions by 2035. Additionally, Vale seeks to reduce its absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 33% by 2030 and achieve neutrality by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement.