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| 1 minute read

England expects that every mast will do their duty - modern sails save cargo ship three tonnes of fuel a day

Portsmouth Naval Base has been an integral part of the city since the time of Richard I in 1194. It is home to HMS Victory - Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 - she, with 246 years of service as of 2024, is the world's oldest naval vessel still in commission. As the battle was about to commence, Nelson famously signaled the British fleet “England expects that every man will do his duty”.

As well as a rich naval heritage, Portsmouth is no stranger to innovation - as far back as 1495, the first recorded dry dock in the world was constructed there. Carrying on this tradition is Portsmouth-based BAR Technologies (BAR). BAR traces its beginnings back to the former British America’s Cup Team, Ben Ainslie Racing, and is a world-leading design and engineering company formed of a team of fluid dynamists, naval architects and composite specialist control engineers.

I was interested to read the linked article relating to a diesel powered cargo ship which has been retrofitted with BAR's WindWings system. The system updates time-honoured wind and sail technology for use in modern-world shipping applications. WindWings aren't the sort of canvas sails used by HMS Victory - they are solid, foldable sails made of steel and fibreglass, standing about 40m tall. Their system doesn't replace the conventional diesel engines of the cargo ship, but provides supplemental propulsion as the ship sails into areas with favorable winds and currents. The wings respond automatically to changes in the wind and trim themselves for optimum speed. This allows the power of the diesel engines to be reduced without the ship slowing down. A six-month sea trial has shown that the system saved the ship an average of 3t of fuel a day.

It's great to see tried-and-tested technologies being brought up to date in order to reduce the environmental impact of shipping. Although the fundaments of the technology are well-known, the various developments made by BAR relating to the mechanisms of the system and its control are likely to be protectable by patents. Which is more, given the environmental benefit of the technology, it would be possible to take advantage of various schemes available at patent offices to accelerate the prosecution of patents relating to green technology.

"Winged cargo ship saves three tonnes of fuel per day on first voyage"


climate change, energy & environment, mechanical engineering, patents, transport, cargo