Illustration courtesy Airseas

French Ro-Ro to Begin Testing ‘Seawing’ Ship Kite for Wind-Assisted Propulsion

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3549
December 16, 2021

A French tech company says it has installed its first automated ship kite on a commercial ship.

The company, called Airseas, says the installation marks an important milestone in the deployment of wind-assisted technologies to curb emissions from shipping.

The first “Seawing” system was installed on board the roll-on/roll-off ship Ville de Bordeaux, which is chartered by Airbus and owned and operated by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs. The ship, which is used to transport major aircraft components between France and the United States, will begin deploying the 500 square meter Seawing on its monthly transatlantic voyages starting in January 2022, with six months of sea trials and testing planned ahead of its full operation.

Airseas says it has received formal approval from leading classification society Bureau Veritas to begin operations at sea, following three years of close collaboration on the development and early trials of the Seawing.

Photo courtesy Airseas

Founded by former Airbus engineers, Airseas brings expertise from the aeronautical sector, including digital twin and automation technology, to the maritime industry amid mounting pressure to decarbonize. Seawing can be safely deployed, operated and stored at the push of a button, and can be retrofitted on a ship in two days, the company says.

Airseas’ full size Seawing, a 1000m2 parafoil, would fly at an altitude of 300 meter, to harness the power of the wind to propel the vessel. Based on modeling and preliminary testing on land, Airseas estimates that the Seawing system will enable an average 20% reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the company.

“This first installation marks a significant milestone not only for Airseas, but also for wind and other renewable propulsion technologies in general,” said Vincent Bernatets, CEO and Co-Founder of Airseas. “Given the urgency of the climate crisis, the world needs to see a drastic reduction in carbon emissions now. In shipping, we can achieve this by using the full set of tools we have available to us today. Wind propulsion is one of these and will play an essential role in helping shipping achieve its much-needed decarbonisation transition.”

Laurent Leblanc, Senior Vice President Technical & Operations at Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore, said: “This important milestone follows three years of close and fruitful collaboration on the development and early trials of the Seawing, supporting Airseas’ safety-first approach and validating the reliability of the system. As a class society, Bureau Veritas has a key role to play to support safe innovation, and this is why we have developed comprehensive rules on wind propulsion systems earlier this year. At BV, we are dedicated to help the maritime sector navigate the challenges of the energy transition, and we fully believe that wind propulsion technology represents a key opportunity to start decarbonising the maritime sector immediately.”

Airseas’ system is not the first we’ve seen of kites used for wind-assisted propulsion in shipping. Germany-based SkySails has been testing similar technology since 2007 and deployed its first system on board the Beluga SkySails in 2008.

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