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A Swedish consortium including ship design firm Wallenius Marine has unveiled a modern-day sailing ship which will be capable of carrying 6-7,000 vehicles and be able to reduce emissions for the trans-Atlantic crossing by 90%.

The wPCC – wind Powered Car Carrier – is a Swedish collaborative project led and overseen by Wallenius Marine and including the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and maritime consulting firm SSPA.

Heralded as a “Swedish project for truly sustainable shipping,” the wPCC is currently being developed by the consortium and is expected to be sailing by the end of 2024.

The world’s largest sailing vessel, the wPCC is billed as being able to reduce emissions by 90% as compared to other ocean-going freighters. A transatlantic crossing aboard the wPCC would take twelve days, instead of the current seven days it takes a conventional freighter.

Conversely, the current fleet of around 450 large car transporters currently use 40 tonnes of fossil fuel per day, opening the door for significant reductions to shipping emissions.

“It is a technically challenging project,” Wallenius Marine developers explain. “The rigging and hull will work together as a single unit to harness the wind in the most efficient way.

“The hull has been designed for a large sailing cargo vessel that will transport heavy cargo over long distances for long periods of time.

It is a mix of aeronautic and shipbuilding technology. We evaluate performance and safety by using a combination of computer simulations and physical experiments.”

Measuring in at 200 metres in length and 40 metres wide, the wPCC is designed to have a displacement of 32,000 tonnes and will measure 100 metres in height thanks to its massive sails, which are twice as high as the tallest existing sailing ships.

“The sails are made of a mixture of metal and composite and will be almost 80 metres high, twice the height of those on the largest sailing vessels around today. It will be possible to ‘reef’ the sails, reducing their height to approx. 50 metres. The vessels will also be fitted with engines to enable them to manoeuvre in and out of port.”

Many of the challenges are being addressed by Jakob Kuttenkeuler, a Professor at the KTH Centre of Naval Architecture.

“It’s a mix of aero and marine engineering,” said Kuttenkeuler. “The rigging should be aerodynamically optimised, robust, light and cheap to manufacture. It can be likened to designing sailing mechanics for an aeroplane that is going to be tossed about at sea.”

The project is backed by an investment of 27 million Swedish crowns ($A4.25 million) from the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket), a testament to the potential importance of the project.

“If these kinds of wind powered ships would become common in the industry, it would be a big step ahead for making the maritime sector fossil free,” said Rein Jüriado, Chief Strategist at the Swedish Transport Administration.

“This is definitely one of the most promising project that we have funded. I think the consortium behind the project is a good guarantee that this will be a successful project.”

A sea trial for a model of the wPCC was carried out earlier this year, including an inclination-test to get the center of gravity and also tested the motoring part and the rudders.

“Putting it in water the first time helps a lot afterwards,” said Ulysse Dhomé, Project Supervisor at KTH. “Now we know more precisely how the boat will behave and we can calculate how to make it stable.”

Wallenius Marine serves as project coordinator for the wPCC as well as owns the concept and contributes design and logistics expertise.

KTH is addressing challenges to the design such as aerodynamics, sailing mechanics, and performance analysis, while SSPA is contributing with expertise within the development and validation of new testing methods, aerodynamic and hydrodynamic simulation methods and risk simulation.”

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