Why sails could help passenger ship owners hit decarbonisation targets

Operators are exploring sails and modern wind propulsion systems

Why sails could help passenger ship owners hit decarbonisation targets


Bureau Veritas is involved with low-carbon projects on Ponant ships

By Andreas Ullrich |

Passenger vessels are more visible to consumers than cargo ships and operators therefore face more pressure to demonstrate their sustainability credentials. Wind propulsion systems (WPS) present a significant opportunity to meet this goal. 

Free from energy market fluctuations, WPS has the advantage that it offers relatively predictable payback once the benefits are determined. The availability of wind, however, presents a challenge. For example, in the early stages of any WPS project, owners must study where they want to operate and the frequency and capacity of wind in that area. The integration of WPS also poses design and technical challenges for newbuilds and retrofits, with structures reaching heights of more than 100 metres. 

Bureau Veritas (BV) has participated in many wind power projects, from the initial design phase through to completion. For example, BV delivered an approval in principle (AiP) to shipbuilder Chantiers de l’Atlantique for its solid sail system, which is designed to reduce emissions from large cruise ships. This technology received the JEC Composites Innovation Award 2023 and will be installed on the BV-classed Neoliner. The world’s largest sailing ship, Orient Express Silenseas, will also feature solid sail technology when it debuts in 2026. The design encompasses three rigid sails, each with a surface area of 1,500 metres. They will provide up to 100 per cent of the ship’s propulsion in suitable weather conditions. 

Ponant, a French cruise brand well known for its focus on sustainability, has launched Swap2Zero. This project will redefine ship design and operation with a combination of six groundbreaking decarbonisation technologies, including sail power, solar panels, fuel cells and carbon capture, aiming to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from our operations by 2030. All Ponant ships have been certified by BV as a ‘clean ship’ or ‘clean super ship’. 

With our experience of working with designers, shipyards, service suppliers and cruise lines, performing inspections, audits and risk-based analysis for safety and environmental initiatives, BV is well placed to advise passenger ship owners on how WPS can support their decarbonisation strategies.  

Andreas Ullrich is global market leader of passenger ships and ferries at Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore.

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. To receive future issues in print or free digital editions, please subscribe to Cruise & Ferry.

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