Sail-powered hybrid looks to revolutionize ocean freight

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Sailing vessels may elicit visions of tall ships plying the trade routes of the 19th century, but if a consortium consisting of Swedish firm Wallenius Marine, the KTH Centre for Naval Architecture and marine technology developer SSPA has its way, wind power may be making a comeback.

The Oceanbird concept is a 200m-long and 40m-wide cargo vessel that features a hybrid concept of wing sails and clean power, which it is claimed will be able to cross the Atlantic in 12 days, carrying 7,000 cars and trucks. The wing sails are 80m tall, giving the ship a height above water line of approximately 105m. However, thanks to a telescopic construction, they can be lowered, resulting in a vessel height above water line of approximately 45m.

To be able to navigate in and out of harbors – and to provide auxiliary power at sea – the vessel will also be equipped with engines, the precise specification of which is yet to be revealed, but the consortium suggests they will likely be renewable fuel-powered hybrids.

Carl-Johan Söder, naval architect at Wallenius Marine, explained, “Our design features a unique combination where the hull and rigs work together as one unit, and has been specifically optimized for sailing the oceans. With our configuration the vessel will have an average speed of 10kts on a typical Atlantic crossing. A North Atlantic crossing with Oceanbird will therefore take around 12 days, compared with the eight days it takes conventional vessels.”

The project is supported by the Swedish Transport Administration, which is acting as a co-financier and has agreed funding for the project through to 2022. The current intent is for order books to open at the end of 2021, with sea trials of a 7m-long model commencing later this year.

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