Sail Transport Industry Trends
May 2015 - Jan Lundberg
I was immersed in shipping industry issues last month at back-to-back
meetings in Delft, Netherlands. We had another SAIL consortium meeting
(EU grant for 3.5 million euros, limited to 7 North Sea nations) and the
MARIN Blue Week convened on wind-assisted shipping. After my
participation and follow-up, here's my current impression on the state of
affairs for expanding sail transport during the corporate global economy.
This seems to be a time of accelerated change in direction for transport
and trade, even more than a year ago. Lower nominal oil prices have a
little-discussed effect, that of mild suppression of the sail-cargo business
during (oddly) simultaneous acceptance of wind power for shipping in
the corporate petroleum-economy. The oil price is of course expected to
go up, based on assumptions on demand.
Our movement’s planning and positioning continue regardless of the oil
price and the uncertainties of the inherently unstable global economy. As
you can imagine, the conservatism of the players in industries open to
wind propulsion and cutting petroleum costs means that some parties put
off new investments during lower (nominal) oil prices, even though the
value chain and natural forces require decisions to keep up with the pace
As sail transport players continue to do their homework and reach out to
the conventional shipping industry, investors are warming to becoming
early adopters. I’m more familiar with north Europe than elsewhere, but
the same principles apply. There may be widespread surprise and
enthusiasm when the first modern, large sail cargo ship goes into
STN and SAIL MED take an interest in this arena to assist worthy parties
working towards at least 60% petroleum fuel reduction. Oddly, ship
designs ready to implement offer up to 90% petroleum fuel reduction,
but any design or proposal guaranteeing over 35% savings is
immediately suspect and dismissed by convention industry types! So
the big reduction potential must be withheld in initial presentations.
There are four main candidates for a ship design giving 60% and higher
fuel savings: The Ecoliner (by the SAIL consortium), B9 Shipping (similar
to the Ecoliner), Wind Challenger (Japan), and Neoline (Nantes,
emphasizing roll-on/roll-off freight). I know these parties and can get
almost any information from them that I may not already have. Costs for
a turn-key ship, over 100 meters long, start at 23 million euros.
STN and SAIL MED are assisting these efforts in modest ways, while we
simultaneously promote traditional, smaller sailing cargo ships.
Let's hear it for strengthening local economies with clean,
renewable-energy transport between bioregions!