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The cargo ship whose hull is a giant sail

Published: 06 Sep 2013 23:10 GMT+02:00

Terje Lade, the ship's inventor, worked as an engineer in Norway's oil and shipping industries before deciding to devote himself full-time to his creation, dubbed Project Vindskip, earlier this year. 
 
"I'm talking to both ship-owners and ship yards, but I can't say anything more specific than that," he said of his plans to commercialize the design. "I believe that within three to four years we will build the first ship." 
 
The hull works in the same way a ship's sail does when it is sailing close-hauled, just off the direction of the wind. 
 
However, because the hull/sail works in tandem with a gas-fired engine, it can also take advantage of the apparent wind created by the forward propulsion, meaning the sail provides a pull even sailing across the wind. 
 
"It will give you a positive pull in the direction of the ship more than fifty percent of the time, as an average, without doing anything," he said. "You don't have to think about it. It's so simple." 
 
Lade got the idea from his hobby of speed-sailing, where the record was set by a boat in close-hauled position. 
 
"The world record was set by a French sailing boat, sailing 52 knots when the true wind was only 25 knots," he told The Local. "This shows how it is when you are sailing close-hauled and the design is right." 
 
The idea is to match the hull design with a complex weather reading system, and a cruise control computer which gives the ship's captain a choice of routes, depending on whether he is looking for the fastest or most economic option. 
 
The computer then adjusts the propulsion from the engine depending on the wind speed and direction, in order to keep the ship moving forward at a constant speed of around 18 knots, comparable with other cargo vessels.  
 
A documentary on Norway's state channel NRK on Thursday night showed Lade testing the hull in a wind tunnel at the UK's Cranfield University. 
 
"In the beginning they thought it was a crazy idea, but after having had a closer look at it, and doing some calculations, the professor said it was very clever," Lade told The Local. 
 
He said he had designed the boat to take cargos of up to 7,000 cars, which is comparable to a normal modern cargo ship. 
 
The project has so far been funded by a grant from Innovation Norway, a government agency, Lade's own funds, and two private investors. 
 
The goal is to lessen the emissions and pollution associated with the shipping trade.  
 
"It is out of concern for the earth, for the environment. Today, they are using heavy fuel oil, which contains 4.5 percent sulphur, which makes acid in the sea, in addition to the carbon dioxide and the NOx. It's no good so many ships going year after year. It's no good for the earth." 

Richard Orange (richard.orange@thelocal.com)

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