Hapag-Lloyd pursues wind propulsion for boxships


Hapag Lloyd has been exploring the issue of wind-assisted ship propulsion and how it could be realised in technical terms by broadening its scope of study on the matter.

On the topic of wind-assisted propulsion, Hapag-Lloyd interviewed Christoph Thiem, Director Strategic Assets Project, and Martin Köpke, Manager Regulatory Affairs & Sustainability.

The German carrier has teamed up with yachtsman Boris Herrmann and his Team Malizia for this study and initiated the newbuild concept of a ship earlier this year.

The ship has a capacity of 4,500 TEU and it includes eight sails with a total sail area of 3,000 square metres. The front two sails are retractable while the six rear sales are extendable, which is expected to help avoid hindering cargo operations in port, while protecting the sail system from damage, according to the team behind the design.

The containership will predominantly rely on its engine for propulsion, while the sail system will only be used for assistance. The extent of support provided by the sail system hinges on several factors, including the ship’s speed and the prevailing wind conditions, Thiem said.

Notably, when navigating at slower speeds within the range of 8 to 10 knots (15 to 20 kilometres per hour (km/h)), and in the presence of favourable wind conditions, the ship has the potential to exclusively utilise and rely on the sail system for propulsion.

“We haven’t explored all aspects of this yet. At the moment, we’re working with historical weather data for the Conosur service, which sails around South America,” said Thiem.

“Next, we’ll be looking at other shipping routes to figure out how we could realise more benefits on other routes using this kind of sailing system.”

The concept study is set to be finalised over the next few months, which is then hoped to provide a foundation for the steps to follow.

“We completed the first phase of the concept study in May. This has given us an initial impression of what this kind of ship could look like. In summer, we started phase two, which is still ongoing,” added Thiem.  

The carrier is reportedly employing computer simulations to investigate the performance of a vessel of this kind, under genuine weather conditions during trade routes. They are assessing the potential energy savings achievable through the implementation of a sail system.

As part of the study, an exploration into the potential of weather-based route optimisation is underway. Additionally, sensitivity analyses are being conducted. For instance, the simulation involves deliberately slowing down the ship to observe the corresponding energy savings.

“We also vary the draughts and see how the ship behaves when it isn’t fully loaded. And we are also investigating what happens if, for example, a sail is damaged or can’t be used,” Thiem added.

READ: Hapag-Lloyd reports 9M revenue decrease

According to Köpke, several NGOs are working together on this issue, including the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping (MMMCZCS) in Copenhagen, the Global Maritime Decarbonisation Center in Singapore, and the Global Maritime Forum.

“Shipowners, suppliers, energy providers, other NGOs and government agencies are working together to develop concrete solutions,” said Köpke.  

When it comes to technical solutions, everyone is very eager to exchange experiences and ideas. In one way or another, all the big and medium-sized shipping companies are assisting in efforts to find solutions that bring us closer to the net-zero goal.”

In October 2023, Bearing AI, the AI Decision Engine for the maritime industry, and Hapag Lloyd launched an AI-powered Fleet Deployment Optimizer.

More recently, Hapag-Lloyd announced the upcoming launch of the Hapag-Lloyd Technology Center (HLTC) in Chennai, India.

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