Sailboats have historically played a significant role in maritime transportation. Recently, this concept has begun resurfacing as a potential solution to decarbonize the shipping sector.
For hundreds and even thousands of years, humans have demonstrated their wit, resilience, and engineering skills to construct some of the most awe-inspiring structures in the world. From the Pyramids of Giza to the City of Petra, these skills have transformed many times throughout the years and eventually brought society to where it is today, a technology haven far beyond what one may have predicted.
Besides building vast structures, historic civilizations also used natural resources to help make life easier. A few examples are waterwheels, windmills, and even windsails. Over time, some of these examples have evolved and integrated modern technology to create efficient and effective solutions, such as wind turbines. This progress has prompted even more creativity and the desire to impart modern twists on historical builds, like sailboats.
Though sailboats most certainly have a rich history, their popularity has remained and transformed into more modern and slightly larger, sleek vessels.
Resorting to Age-Old Practices
French startup Zéphyr & Borée was founded in 2014 to develop low-carbon maritime transport. Their website emulates their dedication to this goal, stating that "projects developed by Zéphyr & Borée must always satisfy a dual condition: be economically viable for our investors and our clients and participate actively at the decarbonization of maritime transport. Beyond the principal activity of our company, we are also committed to organise its everyday life around the values which allow the enterprise to have a positive impact on society."
News has recently surfaced of the company's impressive journey to scale up traditional sailboats and create a functioning wind-powered cargo ship.
Zéphyr & Borée partnered with Jifmar Offshore Service and VPLP design to complete this monumental project. Together, the three companies manufactured a large vessel that could transfer goods across continents.
The nearly 400-foot-long and 75-foot-wide vessel is no small feat. The ship, named the Canopée, was developed for their client, the ArianeGroup, to transport their Ariane 6 space launcher from the European Continent to French Guiana.
The Canopée has four retractable sails strategically placed throughout the middle-to-rear end of the ship that can effectively harness the wind and power the boat throughout its journey. Each sail is roughly 4000 sq. ft. in size and will be big enough to harness enough wind for the cargo ship to reach cruising speeds of 16 knots.
The sails work in conjunction with an IMO tier III marine engine to provide extra support during off-peak wind hours. The company also promises that the cost of a wind propulsion ship does not exceed that of a standard cargo ship long term, which means that though there may be some initial higher upfront costs, these costs are even out when fuel prices and considered.
Zéphyr & Borée estimates that as a result of their sails, the Canopée will see a 35% reduction in polluting emissions compared to traditional cargo ships.
Even though there is no news as to whether the ship has completed its build or undergone trail runs, we can assume such is close by as the website states that they expect the ship's launch to be sometime within this next year.
The company is currently open for other clients and provides information on their website about their services. Their page even suggests that, based on the build, weather, and a few other factors, they can manufacture a cargo ship that reaches up to a 50% emissions reduction.
The Shipping Industry's Massive Footprint
Shipping cargo will remain constant far into the future. As globalization continues, more and more products are being manufactured in different locations and transported for sales. This has resulted in a vast environmental footprint that contributes to climate change.
The International Energy Agency states that in 2020, the shipping industry accounted for roughly 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions. In addition to emissions, the sector can negatively impact marine ecosystems via waste, air pollution, noise pollution, and even toxic leaks.
This impact has prompted many organizations and startups to dedicate significant resources toward mitigation strategies. As a result, there has been a slight yet positive shift in the maritime industry. As time moves forward, there will undoubtedly be even more impressive advancements that can help to lower the sector's environmental impact.
Zéphyr & Borée's service to provide a greener solution to cargo ships can drastically change the future outcome of the industry. By resorting to wind power, the ships are effectively able to reduce emissions and help to encourage other sectors to follow along a similar path. This will ultimately result in a domino effect of sustainable development and climate change remediation.