New Wind-Powered Cargo ships: The future of marine transportation?

January 29, 2024
Team Coboaters

Wind-powered cargo ships: The future of marine transportation?

New technology uses good old-fashioned wind to power giant cargo vessels. New wind-powered cargo vessels are built in different parts of the world. There are numerous very interesting initiatives, innovative solutions, a lot of research and developments. Those innovative new sail technologies move large vessels on all oceans.

This blog provides a general approach to this technology and list some of the most significant wind-powered cargo projects in Europe, Asia and America. We also explore the future of sailing vessels for passengers and try to answer the following questions:

  • What are the on-going wind powered cargo projects?
  • What is Fair Transport?
  • What is windship technology project
  • Are wind powered vessels good for passengers transport across the oceans?
  • What does the future hold for passenger sailing?

Most our readers like to learn about sailing technology and the sailing world. You can check these articles, it is fun, informative and easy to read:

Do you want to experience sailing adventures and find sailing opportunities?

Why could those wind-powered cargo ships be the future of maritime transportation?

90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea. There are tens of thousands ships all over the oceans and  account for an estimated 3% of the world’s carbon emissions each year. It does not seem to be much but it is equivalent to the gas emission of the 3rd economic world power: Japan. Forecast shows that the shipping industry emissions are to be 50% more in 2050. Wind powered cargo seems to be a good solution for a cleaner planet.

Today there about 30 wind powered vessels operating in the world and since the 2010s, the industry and investors poured money in research and development. They are now boosted by new incentives from institutions like the European Union, United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) who are either financing projects or implementing new rules to help low gas emissions companies.

Most of those boats are used to tests new technologies and to verify if it can be efficient and economically feasible.

Pyxis Ocean – A wind powered cargo in operation between asia and South America:

Pyxis Ocean is a 751 FT (229 meters) long with a beam of 32.26 m (105.8 ft)long cargo recently retrofitted with to wind powered propulsion. Two 37.5 m (123 ft) tall ‘WindWing’ sails were added last year in 2023. The first trip occurred between Shanghai and Singapore and then to Brazil in August and September 2023.

It was a great opportunity to evaluate the performance of the so-called ‘WindWing’ sails, an innovative  technology developed by a british company and manufactured in Shanghai, China.

It is assumed that Pyxis Ocean can reduce fuel consumption by 30%. Combined with green fuel it will help to reach the shipping industry pledge to zero emission by 2050 and a big money saving for the operating company Cargill.

wind-powered cargo ship Pyxis with 2 wings in the middle of the ocean

The WindWing technology is not fit for all boats because it is impossible to install them on a cargo ship that carries large containers that are many layers tall. It can only be installed on bulk carriers where the load like grain is stored under deck.

Oceanbird, a new giant wind-powered cargo concept:

Wind-powered cargo ship Oceanbird with 5 wings sailing on the ocean


In January 2022, the Oceanbird project was a concept for a wind-powered cargo ship developed by Wallenius Marine, a Swedish shipping company. The goal of the project was to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly solution for maritime transport by harnessing the power of wind. The design featured a large set of retractable wings or sails that could be deployed to capture wind energy and assist in propelling the ship.

E-Ship 1: a german vessel

The E-Ship 1, operated by the German company Enercon, uses four large rotors to capture wind energy and reduce fuel consumption. Enercon is primarily known for its focus on renewable energy solutions, particularly wind energy. The E-Ship 1 is notable for its innovative approach to harnessing wind power for propulsion.

wind-powered german vessel E-ship 1. Green hull with 4 wings

Key features of the E-Ship 1 wind powered cargo include:

  • Rotor Sails: One of the distinctive features of the E-Ship 1 is the use of four large, vertically mounted rotor sails. These rotor sails are essentially spinning cylinders that capture wind energy and convert it into forward thrust. The rotors can be adjusted to the optimal angle for capturing wind, helping to improve the efficiency of the ship’s propulsion.
  • Hybrid Propulsion System: The E-Ship 1 combines traditional propulsion methods with wind power. In addition to the rotor sails, a conventional engine can power the ship when necessary, such as during low wind conditions or when maneuvering in ports.
  • Reduced Fuel Consumption: The integration of wind power through rotor sails aims to reduce the ship’s reliance on fossil fuels, resulting in lower fuel consumption and, consequently, a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

Fair transport: Traditional sailing cargo ship

Fair Transport, a Dutch company, operates sailing cargo ships as part of its commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly transportation. One of their notable vessels is the Tres Hombres.

Classic sailing vessel Tres Hombres an example of zero-emission wind-powered cargo ship

 Tres Hombres – Sailing cargo detail

The Tres Hombres is a traditional sailing cargo ship that Fair Transport uses for transporting goods across the Atlantic and other routes. It is a schooner with a design reminiscent of historic sailing vessels. The ship relies on wind power for propulsion, and its goal is to demonstrate the viability of emission-free cargo transport using traditional sailing methods.
The Tres Hombres transports various cargoes, including rum, chocolate, coffee, and other goods. The ship’s journey is often documented, and customers can track its progress. They learn more about the sustainable transportation efforts promoted by Fair Transport.


Windship technology:

Windshiptechnology  works on retrofitting existing ships with modern wingsail technology to harness wind power and reduce fuel consumption.

  • Wing Sail Technology: Windship Technology primarily utilizes advanced wing sail technology to capture wind energy and assist in propelling ships. The company’s systems typically involve the installation of large, vertical wing sails on vessels.
  • Retrofitting Existing Ships: One of the key aspects of Windship Technology’s approach is the retrofitting of existing vessels with their wind-assist systems. This allows shipowners to upgrade their fleets and benefit from the fuel efficiency gains provided by wind propulsion.

Windship technology. A company specialized in wind powered vessel. The picture shows how the wind blows between vertical wings


Wind powered ships: The future of  passengers transportation?

It’s a topic that’s been widely discussed this summer, particularly on social networks.
  • Is the sailing liner the future of passenger transport?
  • Is passenger transport by sail a real alternative to air or ferry, to get from point A to point B?
Since 2021, Coboaters promote sailing cruises and boarding any kind of ships to nautical enthusiasts and the uninitiated alike. We are often asked by Internet users looking for carbon-free transport solutions, about the potential of sailing to decarbonize the passenger transport industry. We’re going to take stock of existing solutions and current projects, share our thoughts and, why not, give you some ideas for sailing adventures!

Sailing ships: the future of passenger transport?

Sailing cargo transport has already been back on a small scale for several years, thanks in particular to two forerunners: TOWT, in 2011, and Grain de Sail, in 2018. In 2021, the very first modern sailing cargo ship will be launched: the cargo ship Canopée! New sailing cargo initiatives continue to emerge: Neoline, Eco Trans Océan, Solidsail or sailor François Gabart’s start-up Vela. And that’s a good sign! There are real opportunities to revolutionize maritime freight transport, to reduce or even totally eliminate its impact on the environment. What about passenger sailing projects?

Passenger sailing projects:

As far as passenger sailing is concerned, apart from the TOWT and Eco Trans Océan cargo sailboat projects, which will feature a few passenger cabins, there seem to be fewer projects.

80-passenger catamarans for daily shuttles to French islands, with Sailcoop

SAILCOOP project

The Sailcoop cooperative plans to build a series of 80-passenger catamarans to serve the French islands of Groix, Yeu, Porquerolles and Les Glénan from spring 2024. You can help finance this project.

Sailcoop boat. a sailing vessel for passengers


Silenseas, two new-generation sailing liners, under construction at Chantiers navals de Saint-Nazaire
Silenseas sailing boat is another new wind powered ship for passengers

Existing sailing ships for maritime passenger transport
If you’re planning to travel on a liner powered by the wind, rest assured: there are already opportunities to embark on a sailing liner, and limit your carbon footprint while sailing.

We can recommend several vessels:

  • Club Med 2, a 187-meter-long sailing yacht from the French company Club Med, which can carry up to 368 passengers. Aboard this 5-masted sailing liner, you can discover the diversity of the Mediterranean coastline or the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, depending on the season.
  • Le Ponant, the sailing ship of the famous French company of the same name. With a capacity of just 32 passengers, it’s even more intimate! Aboard, you’ll sail around Australia, the Caribbean or Cape Verde.
  • The Star Flyer, Star Clipper and Royal Clipper, three tall ships from Swedish cruise line Star Clippers. Inspired by the clippers sailing in the 19th century, the two 4-masted schooners and the 5-masted square-rigged ship embark passengers every year for transatlantic sailing or other exceptional cruises.
  • The Sea Cloud, the Sea Cloud II and the Sea Cloud Spirit, three large ships from the German shipping company Sea Cloud Cruises for sailing cruises in Europe, America and Africa.
  • The Wind Surf, the Wind Star and the Wind Spirit, three sailing liners from the American cruise line Windstar Cruises to explore the Mediterranean coasts, or the Pacific Ocean and French Polynesia, as a passenger.

These tall ships often offer “loop” cruises (port of departure = port of arrival), but they also sometimes offer the possibility of making simple journeys. These include Atlantic crossings and circumnavigations! A great alternative to air travel!

What does the future hold for passenger sailing?

One thing’s for sure: we won’t be replacing airplanes and ferries any time soon! While a cargo ship already exists – the Canopée – and there are numerous projects for carbon-free freight transport, there are no real plans for a large-capacity “sailing liner” to meet the travel needs of mass tourism.

The fleet of sailing liners, though aging, should regain interest among travelers. In our opinion, the beautiful Silenseas project is more in the vein of eco-responsible luxury cruising than maritime passenger transport. Let’s hope that other, more “general public” projects will soon see the light of day!

Tomorrow, why not board a sailing liner to visit the Greek islands, or cross the English Channel or the Atlantic, as in the days of transoceanic crossings?

Yachting, a real low-carbon alternative

What if it wasn’t the destination that counted, but the journey? Boaters have long understood this: nothing beats a sailboat for atypical experiences and unique adventures at sea! What if you, too, were to consider another way of sailing, not to go somewhere, but to take the time to live and discover the world around you?

Take advantage of what nature has to offer. Discover the sensation of being carried by the wind, marvel at a dolphin race or the flight of seabirds, admire sunrises and sunsets… All this already exists! Check out our sailing courses, sailboat cruises and co-sailing packages!

For more info, check Coboaters
January 29, 2024
Team Coboaters

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