Ireland-based B9 Shipping, a subsidiary of B9 Energy group, will develop the first fossil fuel-free sailing cargo ships after validating the engineering and economic viability of the vessel design.

The vessel will be powered by the dyna-rig sail system which will provide 60% thrust to the vessel, while a Rolls Royce engine will provide the remaining thrust running on liquid biomethane derived from municipal waste.

A primary testing programme, which will start this month, will be conducted at the University of Southampton’s Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics (WUMTIA), a division of the university’s Engineering Sciences department that operates a consultancy service in ship design.

University of Southampton industry liaison for Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI) Kevin Forshaw said that helping to develop viable means of propulsion for shipping in a post-carbon economy is a strategic objective for the institute and the B9 concept offers a viable alternative.

"We are designing B9 Ships holistically as super-efficient new builds transferring technology from offshore yacht racing combined with the most advanced commercial naval architecture," Forshaw said.

"This approach means financial investment and crucially, garnering support and furthering understanding with the shipping sector that there is a need for urgent change and through collaboration we can create viable commercially successful solutions."

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By GlobalData

The testing programme will undertake tow tank and wind tunnel research to spot a basic hull design and how it works together with the dyna-rig system.

Several performance parameters of a B9 Ship in scale model will be examined under the programme and the thrust from the sailing rig will be adjusted with a range of hull shapes to receive optimum performance efficiencies in a range of meteorological and sea conditions.

Engineering data will also be used to assess and model more accurately various economic performance scenarios. An example of this would include varying the proportion of propulsion delivered by the wind/dyna-rig relative to that provided by liquid biomethane derived from waste

The company said that the economic analysis will be undertaken later this year following the testing of towing tank and wind tunnel, and the validation of all data.

The vessel will be operated entirely from the bridge, which will allow the number of crew members to remain the same as in a conventionally powered ship.