The Oceanbird concept

Thousands of years have passed since we learnt to harness the wind so that ocean-going vessels could travel faster and further. One hundred years ago, motorized ships took over shipping. This has meant increasingly faster crossings but at the expense of the environment. The Oceanbird concept makes it possible to reduce 90% of a vessel’s emissions, compared with today’s most energy efficient ships. The wind helped us discover our planet – now it can help us preserve it.

Wallenius Marine has always been at the forefront of environmentally friendly maritime innovations, and is now ready to take sustainable shipping to the next level. Carl-Johan Söder, Naval Architect at Wallenius Marine, explains that the vision to build an emission-free ship until very recently was a long-term goal.

“But then we asked ourselves, why do we have to wait until 2050? If we look at the available technology in sectors such as the aerospace industry, add some research and development, and combine it with an optimized platform, we can potentially have a design ready in a couple of years.”

Swedish knowledge cluster

As a result, the joint research project wPCC (wind Powered Car Carrier) started in 2019 with the goal of developing a concept for wind-powered vessels that generates 90 percent less emissions than today’s most energy-efficient vessels. The development was of such importance that the Swedish Transport Administration chose to invest SEK 27 million in the three-year development project. In addition to Wallenius Marine, which coordinates the project, the grant also went to the partners SSPA and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

“If this type of wind-powered ships were to become common in the industry, it would be a big step forward to make the shipping sector fossil-free. These are definitely one of the most promising projects we have funded. I believe that the consortium behind the project is a good guarantee that this will be a successful project” says Rein Jüriado, chief strategist at the Swedish Transport Administration.

Telescopic sails

In September 2020, the wPCC team presented the Oceanbird concept. The name associates with the wind power of birds (the wind carries the ship across the ocean),clean energy and also gives a hint as to which routes are relevant. Oceanbird is equipped with five wing sails that resemble upright aircraft wings and can rotate 360 ​​degrees. A telescopic function allows the wings to be folded down to a quarter of its size, which makes it possible to pass under bridges and quickly get less wind power when necessary.

Next step: Realisation

We are now in the realisation phase. In June 2021, Alfa Laval and Wallenius announced that we will enter into a new 50/50 joint venture called AlfaWall Oceanbird. After approval from authorities, the company will develop and provide technology for fully wind-powered vessel propulsion.

Alfa Laval and Wallenius are familiar partners in developing ground-breaking technology. The companies have collaborated before on PureBallast, which is one of today’s leading solutions for chemical-free ballast water treatment.

“We cannot wait until the end of the century to phase out fossil fuels,” says Per Tunell, future CEO of AlfaWall Oceanbird, currently COO of Wallenius Marine. “We must create realistic alternatives, including the infrastructure for delivering and supporting them. Wallenius is committed to wind propulsion, and we know from the experience with PureBallast that Alfa Laval can help us make it a global reality.”

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