Is wind the alternative?

smaller sailing freighters are to emerge. The designs are very different: from very traditional designs to designs corresponding to more modern sailing yachts to designs with alternative sailing concepts (rigid flat sails or wind rotors), everything is represented. In Costa Rica, a 46-metre-long cargo schooner called “Ceiba” is currently being built in the old fashioned way. The Sailcargo project is building the ship in traditional wooden construction. Its design corresponds to sailing ships from the second half of the 19th century.

This is certainly a project that is already extremely planned according to ecological aspects. Whether this ship will also operate successfully in economic terms remains to be seen. However, it is gratifying that enthusiasts have remembered the old techniques and design concepts of more than 200 years ago and have been able to start such a project.

But the question arises whether there is not also room for vehicles powered by sails in the North Sea and Baltic Sea region of the 21st century. Certainly, this is not a form of propulsion that can move ferries or large-volume freighters on its own, but fishing companies, fish farmers or even tourism could potentially make good use of sustainable forms of propulsion.

The “small” fishing industry on the coasts of Northern Europe is in great economic difficulties, as fishing quotas have been greatly reduced in recent years. In many cases, especially very small operators have to close down. They could earn a living if it were allowed to catch more. But this has been prohibited in many areas because of the concrete threat to fish stocks. As a result, these operators, who often maintain only one boat, are no longer able to invest money in new hardware. A campaign for the introduction of new alternative forms of propulsion would only be conceivable here through massive but unlikely subsidies.

So far, there have only been sporadic attempts to introduce sailing freight lines in Northern Europe. These vessels, often operated by enthusiasts, were small sailing vessels, often of advanced age. However, due to unfortunate circumstances or simply insufficient capital, most of these attempts have not survived economically.

From the point of view of the logistics industry, there are several arguments against the use of pure sail propulsion in the North Sea:

Too low cruising speeds;

Stronger influence of external conditions such as wind and tides;

The operation of larger sail systems today requires special experience and knowledge that normal seafarers no longer learn;

Shipbuilding no longer supports this method of propulsion; Newbuildings would be more likely to be ordered from suitable yacht builders;

There are problems in licensing and insuring new sailing vessels for operation;

The small number and different technology makes newbuildings more expensive and difficult to procure. Who manufactures such large sails, masts, fittings, etc. at low cost?

There is a lack of a supply industry, which existed everywhere in the 19th century.

Banks and ship financiers are very unlikely to be interested in such projects. New sources of finance are needed.

The chances for a broader introduction of sailing ships in smaller shipping and fishing are thus rather poor.

This is a pity, because wind as a source of propulsion offers good potential for CO2-neutral shipping in Northern Europe. However, new concepts are needed that deviate from the current ways of motorised commercial shipping. These are not able to support the introduction of sailing freighters and wind-powered fishing vessels. Rather, this industry will tackle alternative energy sources such as hydrogen, LNG or fuels generated from hydrogen, which is what is currently happening.

The number of design firms that can develop functional pure sailing vessels is small. The necessary know-how has simply been lost and is hardly ever taught at universities. Sailing with “tall ships” requires a lot of skill and experience. Those who have not served in a navy as an officer on one of the sailing training ships for a longer period of time can only acquire this knowledge from a few tourist sailing ship operators, but their number is very limited.

The only realistic option is radically different designs from the traditions, using completely different sailing concepts, hull constructions and control systems. This is what is currently happening with the introduction of Flettner rotors on some larger and smaller merchant vessels. The use of automated control systems for the wind drives is the key solution here. There are even proposals for ships powered by the electricity generated by wind turbines.

WR69 – Konzeptdesign Flettnerantrieb

Offshore Service Vessel ‘CC-ONE’

Offshore support is an expensive business. And it will become even more expensive, because tightening environmental regulations will put most conventional offshore units out of business. Older AHTS and MPSVs in particular are now powered by diesel engines that are still unfiltered. They consume vast amounts of fuel and yet cannot do everything a wind farm needs. Their time is running out.

New fuel-efficient flexible offshore support vessels are needed. Less energy use and a wider range of options define the future.

‘CC-ONE’ is a project for a lightly built, extremely economical and very multifunctional vessel. Optimal Dynamic Positioning safety, a large working deck, a small regular crew, and many other features make it far superior to an old ‘iron’ of the offshore industry. ‘CC-ONE’ can work safely and economically in shallow water, mud flats, narrow waters – but especially in offshore wind farms. A quadruple redundant drive system and optimal equipment make it a repair and maintenance vehicle like a service van in an onshore wind farm. After all, no one would let two electricians drive up to the repair site in a 40-tonne truck.

Certainly, large offshore vessels are very imposing. But size alone is not the deciding factor, it’s the price you have to pay for it.

‚CC-ONE‘ – DP Offshore-Catamaran: L: 38 m; B: 12,2 m; Draft: 2,2 m; Deck area: 230 m2; Speed: 12-14 kn; Prop.: 4 x Azimuth;  DP: II; Crane: 12t max.; Gangway; diverse types possible

Size is not the whole thing

Providing successful service with a small offshore vessel

Even the most fuel-efficient offshore vessel cannot do without fuel. Ships that use the electricity from the wind farm they service (the “maritime charging station”) are in the planning stage but not yet available.

The consumption of a diesel engine is linked to easily calculable laws. Depending on the type and age of the engine, 190 to 220 grams of diesel fuel are consumed per kilowatt hour. In recent years, many optimizations have been made to the units, which have led to significant fuel savings, especially in the case of high-speed and medium-speed diesels. But at some point, the end of the possibilities has been reached here too. The carbon content of the fuel is released back into the environment as carbon dioxide, soot and in other forms. Reducing this in an engine is not possible, the laws of physics do not allow it.

A typical utility vessel like the widely used UT-755 usually needs around 15 tons of diesel fuel per day in cruise. It is a lot of steel that is moved through the water in the process with a displacement of about 4,500 tons. Modern OSVs in a wind farm are not much smaller and hardly have weaker propulsion systems. However, they tend to tread water and require somewhat less energy input. But mass remains mass. If you want to use less energy, you must act at this point.

But in offshore shipping, these ship sizes are often not needed at all to transport a few technicians, divers or ROV pilots with their equipment to the scene. A much smaller ship can also do this very well and does not need thousands of kilowatts of power and high investments for its construction.

Accordingly, many savings become possible: fuel expenses, charter rates and personnel costs are reduced accordingly. Climate protection is helped by low CO2 emissions. The new catamaran “CC-ONE” can offer all of this through its overall concept and compactness, without leaving anything to be desired in terms of service. Size alone does not count. You wouldn’t drive a heavy truck to a small construction site on land either.

New offshore service catamaran

“CC-ONE'” is the name of the new project from ELBE-SEA-SERVICES. The 38-metre long and 12.2-metre wide catamaran has been specially designed to fulfil the needs of the offshore wind power industry and other sectors such as fish farms or shore conservation. The vessel is designed to have unique manoeuvrability and Dynamic Positioning (DP 3) capabilities through four separate azimuthing drives.

The three planned diesel generators and an additional power system contribute to safety. The vessel is to be fitted with a 12 t crane, two smaller folding hydraulic cranes and an A-frame at the stern. The large working deck can accommodate several containers as well as an Ampelman L-Type gangway system. Connections for the supply of electricity, compressed air and pressurised water will be provided.

“CC-ONE” is to become a floating workshop for any kind of offshore work in the North and Baltic Seas. Even dry dropping in the tidal flats will be possible.

All diesel generators are designed for the environmental standard TIER III and can be exchanged for new types of power generators such as fuel cells or similar as soon as technical progress permits, because “CC-ONE” is designed to be completely modular.

ELBE-SEA-SERVICES is currently seeking partners who are willing to operate such a ship.

SO2 and NO2 – smoke signs at sea

SO2 (sulphur dioxide) and NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) are very harmful gases for nature and humans. They are emitted by diesel engines without any flue gas filtering. Especially the heavy oil burning marine diesel is harmful. After all, they emit many cubic metres of the gases per minute. Only the ban on heavy fuel oil can help here.

NO2 is harmful to humans and other living beings. You can tell just by the pungent smell and the scratching of the throat. SO2 develops sulphuric acid in contact with water. It is certainly not good to have constant contact with it. Both gases have a very damaging effect in continuous exposure and shorten life.

Shipping is responsible for about 13 % of all SO2 and 15 % of all NO2 emissions worldwide. There are ports where every breath makes you sick.

The “highways” of world shipping can be easily traced by their SO2 emissions. Under “” the routes are easy to find if the world map is adjusted accordingly. Wide brown-coloured paths that stretch across the oceans. It’s time to do something about it.

In a first step, liquid natural gas can be used to make a ship’s exhaust emissions much cleaner. In the second step, we can then switch to using only stored electricity or clean hydrogen. The technologies are developed and available. Only the purchase decisions of the ship operators are still missing.

(Picture by Roberto Venturini)