Oceanbird sailing ship
Wind power

Is shipping the fast track to the transformation of the transport industry?

For more than 5,000 years, transport by sea was completely fossil-free. And after what may be an interlude of around 200 years, it may be shipping that leads us in the transition back to fossil-free transport. That’s what ├ůsa Burman at the maritime research and innovation institute Lighthouse believes.

90% of the world’s goods are transported at some point on one of the world’s approx. 75,000 merchant ships. Already today, sea freight is one of the most energy-efficient ways to transport goods. Nevertheless, it is trucks that have become a symbol of the transport industry, and charging stations that must be icons of change.

Greenhouse gas emissions from ship transport are today usually significantly lower than for road transport, and the heavier or bulkier the goods involved, the greater the advantage of shipping. However, the figures are higher than for rail, but in return shipping requires almost no infrastructure. And as the vehicle side changes fuel and emits less greenhouse gases, the ship side must also follow the same path.

The first vessel from the Oceanbird
The first vessel from the Oceanbird concept will be a car-carrier able to transport around 7,000 cars.

Modern sailing ships – now it’s happening

However, shipping is not a purely climate and environmental hero. The fuels used are significantly less clean than those permitted in trucks today. But that is changing.

But it’s also really exciting that the original propulsion technology is making a comeback: Sail. Here too, Wallenius is well ahead. Together with KTH and SSPA, they have developed the concept Oceanbird – A sailing ship with room for 7000 cars for intercontinental transport. Now Wallenius and Alfa Laval have formed a joint company to commercialize the technology. The work is in full swing and the plan is for the ship to make its maiden voyage as early as 2026.

– Oceanbird has really opened many people’s eyes to what can be done. We are used to modern wind turbines providing us with electricity. But still, the idea of combining modern technology with 1000s of years of seafaring has not taken off until now.

Also read: SeaTwirl in collaboration with the University of Tokyo