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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article22 August 2023European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency2 min read

New wind powered cargo ship sets sail

The Pyxis Ocean has set sail to test EU-funded WindWings technology that will bring cutting edge wind propulsion to commercial shipping for the first time.  

CHEK project launch of Pyxis Ocean
© CHEK project / Cargill


The development of the WindWings fixed wing sail system is at the centre of the EU supported CHEK project, coordinated by the University of Vaasa in Finland. The project brought together 17 partners, specialised in different fields. By harnessing the synergies between innovative energy technologies, operational systems, propulsion, and drag reduction, CHEK has successfully pioneered this groundbreaking technology.

Five-year old bulk carrier Pyxis Ocean, chartered by project partner and shipping firm Cargill, is the first vessel to be retrofitted with WindWings. These large wing sails, measuring up to 37.5 meters in height, are fitted to the deck of cargo ships to harness the power of wind. The aim is to help the industry chart a course towards a lower-carbon path.

The installation of the wings took place at the COSCO shipyard in China. Pyxis Ocean is now on her maiden voyage to Brazil – not only making waves but also making news across the world with coverage on various outlets including the BBC.

Saving fuel to save carbon

BAR Technologies developed the sails, which were built by Yara Marine Technologies. The wing sails are expected to generate average fuel saving of up to 30% on new build vessels, thereby cutting shipping’s carbon footprint. This could be even higher if used in combination with alternative fuels.

“The maritime industry is on a journey to decarbonise – it’s not an easy one, but it’s an exciting one,” said Jan Dieleman, the president of Cargill’s ocean transportation business.

Shipping, while essential for trade, is responsible for up to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. With the maritime industry responsible for transporting no less than 90% of world commerce, there is increasing pressure on the sector to reduce its carbon footprint swiftly.  

Pioneering research

This installation is the culmination of years of pioneering research. It demonstrates a step-change in attitudes towards technologies that can enable an energy transition for existing vessels.

WindWings can help the industry meet those targets by offering a retrofit solution that is capable of decarbonising existing vessels. This is particularly relevant given that 55% of the world’s bulker cargo fleets are up to nine years in age.

“If international shipping is to achieve its ambition of reducing CO2 emissions, then innovation must come to the fore. Wind is a near marginal cost-free fuel and the opportunity for reducing emissions, alongside significant efficiency gains in vessel operating costs, is substantial, said John Cooper, Chief Executive Officer, BAR Technologies.  

Wind was a common way of propelling ships before the switch to steam and diesel engines but is now mostly used only for smaller vessels. This maiden voyage will provide the first real-world test of the WindWings and an opportunity to see whether a return to the traditional way of propelling ships could be the way forward for commercial shipping.