World’s 1st full-size wind-powered RoRo set to be operational by 2025

First, there was the Oceanbird concept—a car-carrying vessel designed to utilize wind as its primary source of power. This time, the Norwegian maritime industry group Wilhelmsen introduced another ground-breaking maritime innovation. Presenting the Orcelle Wind—the ship builder’s wind-powered pure car and truck carrier capable of achieving up to 90% reduced emissions than today’s most efficient vessels. The company also hopes to have the new ship ready for the high seas by 2025.

The transoceanic shipping industry might be the most carbon-efficient mode of transport. However, the fact remains that it still accounts for nearly 3% of global human-made greenhouse gas emissions. Committed to sustainable logistics and as a market leader in RoRo shipping, Wallenius Wilhelmsen takes an active role in steering the industry towards a zero-emissions future, which is why it is investing in new technology to improve the efficiency of its fleet

and testing alternative fuels.

Recognizing there’s still more to be done, Wallenius Wilhelmsen launched its most significant sustainability project to date: The world’s first full-size wind-powered pure car and truck carrier. The world’s first full-scale wind-powered RoRo ship is approximately 220 meters in length with an estimated beamwidth of 40 meters.

“Since 2008, we have been able to reduce CO2 intensity by 33%, which is a significant step. But the journey towards zero emissions requires great strides forward,” said Craig Jasienski, CEO of Wallenius Wilhelmsen. “We believe Orcelle Wind is one of them.”

Once completed, Orcelle Wind will have the capacity to carry 7,000 vehicles at speeds of 10-12 knots under sail—a speed that could increase with the help of an onboard supplemental power system. In addition to cars, the wind-powered vessel will also transport heavy machinery and breakbulk products.

“Orcelle Wind will be our technical and operational testbed for zero emission innovation, where we can assess and develop various zero-emission fuels and technology,” said Erik Noeklebye, EVP and COO of shipping services at Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

Plans are in place to have a design ready for contracting with a shipyard by mid-2022, with the finished vessel expected to set sail by 2025, subject to a comprehensive viability evaluation. To pass muster, Orcelle Wind must satisfy regulatory standards relating to safety and technical performance. Operational needs must also be met, such as the suitability for deployment on multiple global trade lanes and the ability to maneuver in port in bad weather.

“It will take the dedicated collaboration of our world-class customers, partners and employees to make such a bold initiative as Orcelle Wind succeed,” added Jasienski. “More than just evaluating the concept, we are committed to making this a success.”

Meanwhile, Wallenius Wilhelmsen has carried out a biofuel trial that may bring it one step closer to delivering more sustainable shipping solutions. To improve its knowledge of biofuel and test its potential in deep-sea shipping, the company recently carried out a trial on one of its vessels, as a biofuel has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by as much as a third compared to conventional marine fuels.

“An emission reduction of 30% is significant and therefore must be seriously explored,” said Kari Haugen, senior manager for energy solutions in Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

With the shipping industry accounting for close to 3% of global CO2 emissions, using biofuels to power existing fleets could be one solution to reducing emissions in the short-term. In contrast, shipping companies continue to explore new vessel technology.

“Sustainable biofuels hold the potential for the shipping industry to achieve a step reduction in lifecycle CO2 emissions for its existing fleet. While sustainable biofuels cannot achieve a zero-emission outcome, they represent a step in the right direction,” said Roger Strevens, Head of sustainability of Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

The biofuel blend used in the trial is 0.50% sulphur residual fuel (VLSFO) and contains 45% FAME (fatty acid methyl ester). The added advantage is that it’s a “drop-in fuel,” meaning it can be used without the need for any vessel modifications, making it a viable choice for vessels currently in operation.

A total of 2000 mt of the biofuels blend was bunkered in Amsterdam’s vessel MV Figaro in December 2020. A particular protocol was carried out in preparation for the trial, including risk assessment and planning, ship inspection and performance tests, fuel quality analysis, data collection and analysis, and onboard handling guidelines.

“We expect the trial to prove technical feasibility, with no adverse effect on engine performance, onboard storage, handling and treatment systems. The trial will also validate the stability of the fuel over a longer period of time,” said Haugen. “Equally important is administrative feasibility. As marine biofuel specifications may not meet all the required specifications that vessel engines are originally designed for, flag state, class, engine manufacturer and insurance stakeholders need to be involved in approving the use of these products,” she explained. (Story and image courtesy of Wilhelmsen)

Watch Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s short video teaser on the Orcelle Wind here: