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Wind-Powered Cargo Ship To Blow CO2 Emissions Away

Wind-Powered Cargo Ship To Blow CO2 Emissions Away


By Lorraine Dufour

Chances are you’ve heard how the electric vehicle (EV) industry has gained popularity. You might even be the proud owner of an EV or a hybrid vehicle yourself. After all, reducing CO2 emissions is key for the future of our planet.

Cleaner fuel alternatives such as biofuels are also in use by the auto industry.

Sure, a lot of vehicles are now more environmentally friendly than they were a couple of decades ago.

But have you ever thought about how vehicles get from the factory to your dealership?

What about those giant cargo ships sailing around the world, delivering those vehicles?

What’s their impact on our oceans, and the environment as a whole?

Is it too late to turn the tide?



The Environmental Impact of Shipping

A lot of the stuff you buy in stores and online comes from somewhere other than the United States.

And a lot of it gets here by hitching a ride on a huge cargo ship.

In 2019, approximately 11.1 billion tons worth of goods were shipped all around the world.

That’s a crazy amount of stuff transported worldwide, and that number is only going to grow.

Even though shipping is the least environmentally damaging form of transport, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for change. Far from it in fact.

Considering the sheer size of the industry, there’s still a lot we can do to improve its track record.

Some issues are more obvious and well-known.



The North Atlantic Right Whale population is declining as a result of being hit by ships passing through their migration routes.

Thankfully, some progress is being made here. In areas where whales tend to frequent, there are speed restrictions in place. In some cases, there are even “areas to avoid”. Go whales!

You’ve probably heard of the impact cargo ships have on sensitive marine environments, such as coral reefs. If these unique habitats aren’t protected, whole ecosystems could disappear.

Lesser-Known Threats

There’s also some lesser-known threats the shipping industry poses to the environment.

Believe it or not, invasive species are a huge threat to the economy and different ecosystems. It’s not uncommon to find critters on board or attached to a ship’s hull far away from their natural environment.

It’s estimated that the cost of invasive species to the economy is hundreds of billions of US dollars a year. 

Isn’t that mind-boggling?

How about vessel discharge?

Sounds gross, doesn’t it?

It is gross, and just as harmful to our beautiful oceans as well.

Everything from the body wash that sailors use, to the fuels & oils used to run a ship, can all find their way into the ocean.

Today, regulations are in place to reduce the impact of vessel discharge into waterways. Let’s hope that technology and increasing awareness lead to stricter laws in the future.



CO2 Emissions From Cargo Ships

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most harmful – and plentiful – greenhouse gas that’s emitted from a ship’s exhaust.

Though our one world Ocean absorbs global CO2 emissions, those emissions negatively impact coral reefs, plankton, and more. 

Too much CO2 in the atmosphere is heating up our planet quicker than it can adapt to. This causes more frequent and severe natural disasters.

In 2018, shipping accounted for approximately 1,056 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

That’s about 2.89% of total carbon emissions globally.

You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal, it’s only 3%”.

But our demand for more stuff is only growing, which means the shipping industry will grow too.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the agency responsible for preventing ship pollution.

The IMO concluded that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are only going to get worse if nothing is done.

Thankfully, they decided to do something about it.

Their strategy is to reduce CO2 emissions from shipping by 40% by 2030, and 70% by 2050, compared to 2008 levels.

The goal is to be at zero GHG emissions from the global shipping industry sometime this century.

Don’t you think that would be amazing?



Cargo Ships of the Future

Energy efficiency is the name of the game.

To get these massive ships from point A to point B requires a lot of energy.

But what type of energy and how it’s harnessed can make a world of difference.

The burning of dirty fossil fuels is what’s contributing to the increase in GHG.

To meet the goals set out by the IMO, the shipping industry needed to look at better ways of using energy.

Low carbon fuels, zero-carbon fuels, and biofuels are already used by some companies.

Or how about just … slowing down?

Yup, apparently that works too. 

Not only does it save whales, but it’s more energy-efficient as well.

Energy efficiency can also come in the form of overcoming logistical challenges. 

Smoother procedures at a ship’s destination mean less time spent idling in port, often for days at a time.

Other innovative ship designers are taking the zero-emissions mission to the next level.



Wind-Powered Cargo Ships

You’ve probably heard the saying “everything old is new again”. There’s definitely some truth to that.

Just like how you wore high-top sneakers as a kid 30 years ago, and now your kid is wearing them too. Sometimes all it takes is to look back to the past for inspiration for the future.

Harnessing the power of the wind is definitely not a new idea.

Before we discovered burning ancient remains as an energy source was a thing, humans used the power of the wind to set sail. A power that doesn’t involve CO2 emissions.

Lucky for us, using wind power is still an eco-friendly and efficient way to sail around the world, even for a cargo ship.

And it looks cool too.


The Ship With Wings

Swedish shipbuilding company Wallenius Marine has designed a ship that uses 5 giant “sails” called Oceanbird.

Wallenius is committed to working towards a zero-emission shipping future, and this a big step towards that goal.

Oceanbird’s sail design actually has more in common with an airplane wing than a traditional ship’s sail.

The height of the sails is also adjustable so they can shrink during high winds, or when passing under a bridge.

They can also rotate to catch the wind, whatever directions it’s coming from.

This design means that Oceanbird ships will reduce emissions by 90%.

Now that’s an impressive stat.

Right now the Oceanbird is designed for use as a vehicle cargo ship that will be able to carry 7000 vehicles. They are working on designs to adapt to other types of ships.

As a company aiming for zero emissions, Wallenius Wilhelmsen, will turn Oceanbird into a reality.

They hope to begin construction in 2022 and set sail in 2025 with what will be a big step towards a greener planet.

Once built, it will still have to go through rigorous testing and pass strict safety and technical regulations just like any other ship.

It will also have to prove that it is commercially viable and be able to operate under harsh conditions.

It takes the average vehicle cargo ship about 8 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It’ll take the Oceanbird – or the Orcelle Wind as Wallenius Wilhelmsen is calling it – about 12 days.

Will this be an issue? That remains to be seen.

At least for now, there are companies who are ready and willing to take the risk on what can only be seen as a step in the right direction for our planet.



The Desire for Change

While the planet is warming up far too fast right now, we need to see action taken at every level.

As 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea, it’s very important to see measures put into place to curb GHG emissions.

Seeing billions invested by large companies into greener technologies is promising. We need to continue with this progress before we pass the point of no return.

As long as we keep putting pressure on companies and governments, we’ll keep seeing the results.

Billions of US Dollars worth of cars get imported to the US every year, many of those on cargo ships.

So when you think about the products you use, don’t just think about what they’re made of. Think about where they’re made, and how they got to you.

Do your research, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and demand change. Demand that CO2 emissions be reduced!

Big results can happen on a smaller scale, so it’s important that you do your part too.

Sign up for Ocean Blue Project’s newsletter today and learn more about how small changes add up to a world of difference.

Author Bio: Lorraine Dufour is a freelance copywriter who loves spending time outdoors with her two young children showing them the beauty of nature, and teaching them the importance of environmental stewardship.