Eco-Friendly Cargo Ship Recalls Glorious Maritime Past

A design concept for a cargo ship of the future has drawn inspiration from maritime history. The idea is to create a fleet of sailing cargo ships that will be 100 percent fossil fuel free.

Originating in Britain, a nation with a rich and colorful naval history, the concept sounds a lot like a return to the era that prefigured steam ships, when sailing ships were the only way of moving cargo across the seas.

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image via B9 Shipping

However, the ships are somewhat more advanced than a good-old fashioned schooner. Featuring a state of the art dyna-rig sail propulsion system and off the shelf Rolls-Royce engines powered by waste derived liquid biomethane (liquid gas), the ships are the brainchild of B9 Shipping.

The company, which is part of the B9 Energy group, has already started work on a full-scale demonstration vessel.

Meanwhile a testing program is under way at the University of Southampton’s Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics.

The testing program, which began this month, will use tow tank and wind tunnel research to create a hull design to compliment the dyna-rig system. Using scale models it will attempt to calibrate thrust caused by the sailing rig under various conditions to come up with the optimum hull design.

B9 Shipping said the design would also have to take into account loading and unloading at dockside.

“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,” Diane Gilpin, director of B9 Shipping, said in a statement. “We’re combining proven technologies in a novel way to develop ‘ready-to-go’ future-proof and 100 per cent fossil fuel free ships. 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.”

This is not the first attempt to return sails to cargo ships in a bid to cut fossil fuel use.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.