Japanese shipping company Ocean Network Express (ONE) has begun its first trial of new wind propulsion technology in partnership with Econowind, with two large metal foils to be installed on one of its vessels. 

Econowind’s VentoFoils are installed in their own large containers and will be trialled on ONE’s MV Kalamazoo for the first six months of 2024 to assess their viability as a long-term sustainable technology that can provide a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions for ships. 

Hiroki Tsujii, managing director of ONE, said: “ONE is committed to minimizing our environmental impact and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. This trial with Econowind is an important step forward in our efforts to explore innovative and sustainable solutions for the maritime industry.” 

Though reminiscent of some of shipping’s oldest technology, new wind propulsion devices have begun appearing as a part of the solution to the maritime industry’s sustainability problem in recent years. 

The VentoFoils in particular claim to have the potential to generate up to 400kW of power and reduce fuel consumption by 5% while similar technology such as BAR Technologies and Cargill’s WindWings claims to provide fuel savings of up to 30% on average for new build vessels. 

Econowind’s product works by using a smart suction system to optimise airflow and maximise thrust with fully automatic foils that adjust for wind speed and direction, while other versions of the technology, such as the Seawing kite system being built by Airseas, take a simpler approach by using a large parafoil to harness the wind and help pull a ship along the ocean. 

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While the tech has yet to see widespread use, ONE becomes the latest high profile company to trial the idea following names like Mitsubishi Corporation and Airbus

ONE’s MV Kalamazoo is a 1,036 TEU feeder vessel owned by NORSE UK which currently operates between Pusan, South Korea, Yokohama, Japan and Honolulu, Hawaii. 

The Japanese company’s trial continues its efforts to reach sustainability and low emissions targets, which recently saw it place second on Ship it Zero’s decarbonisation scorecard behind Maersk, which has a more ambitious net zero target of 2040.