Wind Ship: a white paper to promote wind propulsion in maritime transport

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Wind Ship, a French association based in Atlantic France, is focused on the development and promotion of wind propulsion technologies for ships. Their work contributes to the ongoing efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the maritime sector, and the association has also released a guide to convince logistics professionals to change their vision.

Established in Atlantic France in 2019, the Wind Ship Association has the objective of positioning wind propulsion as a practical solution for decarbonising commercial shipping and fishing.

Wind Ship contributes to changes in shipping methods and consumption patterns: they support economic models that aim to reduce distances and establish new connections between regions.

Wind Ship’s role in decarbonising maritime transport

Wind Ship brings together companies that are at the forefront of wind propulsion technology and representatives of civil society who support the development of such solutions. The association has released a white paper that serves as a guide to the fundamentals of wind propulsion for ships, aiming to enhance understanding of the potential benefits of wind energy in maritime transport.

Why is this important? The maritime sector, responsible for over 80% of global merchandise trade, contributes to 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions. If left unchecked, this figure could rise to 16% by 2050. Wind Ship’s work in promoting wind propulsion technologies is part of the wider effort to address this environmental challenge.

A future perspective on green wind in Atlantic France

The potential for the development of wind propulsion technologies is immense. A study by Nantes Saint-Nazaire Développement and the Wind Ship Association suggests that up to 10,000 cargo ships could be fitted with sails by 2030, and up to 40,000 by 2050. This technology is particularly effective for medium-sized vessels travelling at moderate speeds. This could represent 45% of the world’s fleet. 

Large corporations are also showing an increased desire to decarbonise their supply chains as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies. In France, several companies have expressed their intention to use shipping primarily powered by wind from 2025 onwards. This shift towards wind propulsion is a testament to the growing recognition of its potential to transform the maritime industry.

Atlantic France, with its historical expertise in sectors such as logistics, sailing, and shipbuilding, is actively involved in this development. The regional council supports the growth of these technologies, which is leading to job creations across the value chain, from research and innovation to industrialisation.

Moreover, the region is also a pioneer in marine renewable energy, with the first operational offshore wind farm in France being located in Atlantic France. The region is also home to major companies in the marine renewables sector, offering integrated logistics and supply chain solutions in key areas. This further strengthens the region’s position as a leader in sustainable maritime solutions.

Download Wind Ship’s guide on their website

Why is wind a viable solution for maritime transport?

Wind propulsion is emerging as a viable solution for the maritime industry, offering a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to traditional fuel sources. It has the potential to serve as the primary propulsion system for medium-sized vessels on suitable routes, such as transatlantic crossings.

The benefits of wind propulsion are manifold. It offers a stable cost of transport for the portion powered by wind energy and can lead to significant fuel savings. Existing ships can expect savings of 5% to 20%, while new ships could see savings of over 30%. In some cases, medium-sized vessels using wind as the main propulsion on a favourable route could achieve savings of up to 80%.

The adaptability of wind propulsion systems is another key advantage. They can be fitted to almost all types of vessels, either during construction or as a retrofit, with a low environmental footprint. Several large cargo vessels, including an oil tanker, bulker, ferry, and fishing vessel, have already been equipped with wind propulsion technologies and are currently being tested across various sailing areas.

Wind propulsion is also gaining recognition from state and professional maritime transport authorities. It meets existing regulations and is being incorporated into updated guidelines for energy efficiency indices used to classify ship types. Major classification societies have published or updated their standards on wind-powered ships, and insurers are expected to offer specific policies or premium incentives for wind propulsion.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the dependence of many countries on strategic goods produced abroad. As a result, there is a growing desire to relocate some industrial production closer to home. The use of renewable energies like wind propulsion could reshape major maritime routes in favour of regional trade, potentially disrupting the current organisation of commercial shipping.


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