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Hapag-Lloyd studying 4,500TEU wind-powered box ship concept

Hapag-Lloyd wind-powered box ship concept
The world’s fifth-largest container shipping company is studying wind-assisted propulsion as part of the company’s R&D activities.

The German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd is studying wind-assisted propulsion for 4,500 TEU box ship as part of the company’s R&D activities involving alternative technologies and fuels.

Earlier this year, the company partnered up with Boris Herrmann and his Team Malizia and launched a concept study for a 4,500 TEU ship with the wind-assisted propulsion system. The concept study is expected to be finalised in the coming months and will give the company a basis for the next steps.

To date, wind propulsion investment has tended to focus on bulk carriers where there is more open deck space. 

“Hapag Lloyd has been working for some time on the issue of wind-assisted ship propulsion and how this could be realised in technical terms. But since this technology isn’t ready for the market yet, we think it’s important to expand our studies on it,” said Christoph Thiem, Director Strategic Assets Projects at Hapag-Lloyd.

Hapag-Lloyd, the world’s fifth-largest container shipping company, completed the concept study's first phase in May 2023. This has given the company an initial impression of what this kind of ship could look like. In the summer, the shipping major started phase two which is still ongoing.

The current design envisages eight sails with a total sail area of 3,000 square metres. The six rear sails will be extendable, the two front ones retractable. This helps not to hinder cargo operations in port and to protect the sail system from damage as well as to avoid any limitations owing to things like bridges.  

The box ship will mainly be propelled by its engine, and the sail system will only be used to assist propulsion. How much assistance the sail system can provide depends on several factors, such as the ship’s speed and the wind conditions. At slow speeds of 8 to 10 knots (15 to 20 km/h) and with the right wind conditions, the ship can also be propelled using just the sail system. However, the Hapag-Lloyd team has not explored all aspects of this yet. The team is working with historical weather data for the Conosur service, which sails around South America.

The company said it will be looking at other shipping routes to figure out how it could realise more benefits on other routes using this kind of sailing system.