Maersk Tanker to Be Fitted with Flettner Rotor Sails

Illustration shows two Flettner rotor sails installed onboard a Maersk Tanker vessel. Photo: Maersk Tankers/Norsepower
Illustration shows two Flettner rotor sails installed onboard a Maersk Tanker vessel. Photo: Maersk Tankers/Norsepower

A Maersk-owned tanker is set to be fitted with two Flettner rotor sails as part of a industry project seeking to test the century-old wind propulsion technology’s potential to reduce fuel consumption in modern day shipping.

The project will be the first installation of the wind-powered energy technology on a product tanker, and will provide insights into fuel savings and operational experience.

Partners in the project include Norwegian rotor sail company Norsepower Oy Ltd, in partnership with Maersk Tankers, The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), and Shell Shipping & Maritime.

Maersk Tankers will supply a 109,647-deadweight tonne (DWT) Long Range 2 (LR2) product tanker which will be retrofitted with two 30m tall by 5m diameter Norsepower Rotor Sails. Combined, the alternative propulsion technology is expected to reduce average fuel consumption on typical global shipping routes by 7 to 10 percent.

The rotor sails will be fitted aboard the Maersk Tankers vessel during the first half of 2018, before undergoing testing and data analysis at sea until the end of 2019.

The Norsepower Rotor Sail Solution is a modernized version of the Flettner rotor – a spinning cylinder that uses the Magnus effect to harness wind power to propel a ship. Each Rotor Sail is made using intelligent lightweight composite sandwich materials. When wind conditions are favorable, the main engines can be throttled back, providing a net fuel cost and emission savings, while not impacting scheduling. Independent experts will analyze the data gathered from the project before publishing technical and operational insights, and performance studies, the companies say. 

Experimentation with Flettner rotors to aid in ship propulsion dates all the way back to the 1920’s. Although the technology has not been widely adopted, modern Flettner rotors are currently in use aboard the E-Ship 1, which has four large rotor sails and is owned by wind turbine manufacturer Enercon. Also the roll-on/roll-off vessel MV Estraden operates North Sea and is equipped with two Norsepower Rotor Sails. 

The project involving the Maersk tanker is majority funded by the UK’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) with contributions from Maersk Tankers and Norsepower. Shell will act as project coordinator, and provide operational and terminal / port consultancy to the project team, while Maersk Tankers will provide technical and operational insight.

Commenting on the partnership, Tuomas Riski, CEO, Norsepower, said:

“We are privileged and excited to be collaborating with Maersk Tankers, Shell, and the ETI on this project. We are optimistic that support for this trial from these industry leading organisations will open up the market for our technology to a larger number of long-range product tanker vessels – paving the way for ship fuel efficiencies, and ultimately reducing emissions, including greenhouse gases. As an abundant and free renewable energy, wind power has a role to play in supporting the shipping industry to reduce its fuel consumption and meet impending carbon reduction targets.”

Tommy Thomassen, Chief Technical Officer, Maersk Tankers, explained:

“Together with our partners, we have the opportunity to deploy an innovative technology that can improve fuel efficiency on our LR2 product tanker vessels and help to reduce their environmental impact. We look forward to contributing to the project, and sharing our decades of experience and knowledge within safety and tanker operations.”

Karrie Trauth, General Manager, Technology & Innovation, Shell Shipping & Maritime, commented:

“At Shell, we believe that innovation and technology are key elements to improving the efficiency and environmental performance of shipping operations. We look forward to using our shipping and technical expertise to support this trial.”

Andrew Scott, Programme Manager HDV marine and offshore renewable energy, The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), added:

“Flettner rotors have the potential to reduce ship fuel consumption substantially, especially on tankers and dry bulk carriers. It is one of the few fuel saving technologies that could offer double digit percentage improvements. To date, there has been insufficient full scale demonstration on a suitable ocean going marine vessel to prove the technology benefits and operational impact. Demonstrating the technology in this project will make it more attractive to shipping companies and investors, and could play a significant role in reducing the fuel costs and improving the environmental impact of shipping in the future.”