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Largest Suction Sails to be Installed on Marubeni Panamax Bulker

suction sails on bulker
Plans call for retrofitting the largest suction sails yet produced to a Panamax bulker (Marubeni)

Published Nov 11, 2022 6:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

Interest continues to grow in the potential of different forms of sails to provide wind propulsion assistance for large commercial vessels. In the latest development, the Singapore-based shipping subsidiary of Japanese trading house Marubeni announced plans to test a suction sail concept aboard one of its large bulkers. According to the companies, it will be the largest suction sail ever built and installed on a vessel and the first application of this form of the technology on a Panamax bulker.

MMSL, which owns a fleet of modern bulk carriers including Kamsarmax and Supramax bulkers and product tankers, is working with bound4blue, a Spanish company developing automated wind-assisted propulsion systems. Bound4blue has previously installed its form of sails on smaller vessels and is currently developing installations for shipowners including Amasus Shipping and a future installation for Louis Dreyfus Armateurs.

Bound4blue’s wind propulsion system, a suction sail technology, is similar to the lifting force produced by an airplane wing. It is designed to adjust the angle of its sails in the direction of the wind to generate propulsion. Based on early studies, the companies report that they expect as much as a 15 to 20 percent reduction in fuel and emissions for the large bulker. The highest level will be from the most favorable trade routes where the vessel can access the strongest, consistent winds. The sail installation is also expected to contribute to improving the vessel’s EEXI and CII scores.

The wind propulsion system is scheduled to be refitted to the vessel in the 2023-2024 timeframe. The vessel selected for the installation is the six-year-old Crimson Kingdom (84,860 dwt). The vessel which measures 751 feet in length, will be retrofitted with four eSails standing 85 feet in height. 

“This agreement with Marubeni will enable us to scale up our technology to the next level, installing our 26-metre units on a bulk carrier for the first time and giving us the opportunity to partner with one of the most important international shipowners”, commented José Miguel Bermúdez, CEO of bound4blue. “The installation on Crimson Kingdom will probe the potential of our suction sails on bulk carriers, a strategic segment for our company.”

Other forms of wind propulsion are also being tested on a growing number of vessels. Last year, five tilting rotor sails were installed on the deck of a new very large ore carrier (VLOC), the Sea Zhoushan. The 325,000 dwt ore carrier was the largest to receive the wind propulsion system. The vessel is owned by Pan Ocean Ship Management and chartered to Brazilian mining giant Vale. Recently, Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines also began testing its form of a rigid sail aboard a 100,000 dwt coal carrier and plans to expand its installations including possibly combining rotors and the rigid sail on another bulker.

The International Windship Association reports that 21 large commercial ships are now fitted with some form of wind propulsion. The group projects it will reach 25 by year’s end.