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Harnessing the Power of Wind: Hull Designs for Maximizing Propulsive Effects of New Generation Wind Sails on Large Commercial Ships


The shipping industry plays a vital role in global trade and transportation, contributing to economic growth while also facing challenges in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The shipping industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In order to reduce emissions, the industry is looking to new technologies, such as wind-assisted propulsion.

As a response to the need for sustainable shipping solutions, the integration of wind power through modern wind sails has gained significant attention. In order to fully harness the propulsive effects of these new generation wind sails, optimizing hull designs for large commercial ships becomes crucial. In this article, we will explore the key considerations and emerging trends in hull design that maximize the utilization of wind energy for propelling ships forward.


Understanding Wind Sail Technology

Wind sails, also known as Flettner rotors or rotor sails, utilize the Magnus effect to generate propulsive force. This effect occurs when the wind passes over a rotating cylinder, creating a pressure differential that results in a perpendicular force to the wind’s direction. The force generated can be harnessed to propel the ship forward, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and lowering emissions.

New generation wind sails are becoming increasingly efficient and can provide a significant boost to the fuel efficiency of large commercial ships. However, in order to maximize the propulsive effects of these sails, the hull design of the ship is also important.

Ship Hull

The hull is the outer shell of a ship or boat, serving as its main structural component. It provides buoyancy, stability, and structural integrity to the vessel. The design and construction of the hull are crucial for the ship’s performance, safety, and efficiency. The hull ensures buoyancy and stability, withstands external forces, and maintains structural integrity. Its hydrodynamic properties affect the ship’s efficiency by minimizing drag. The hull design also influences seaworthiness, handling, resistance to corrosion and fouling, and environmental impact. By prioritizing hull design and incorporating advanced technologies, the maritime industry aims to enhance safety, efficiency, and sustainability at sea.

For an in-depth understanding on Wind Power technology and applications please visit: Wind Power in Shipping: Navigating a Sustainable Future

Key Considerations for Hull Design

Traditionally, ship hulls have been designed to minimize drag. However, this can also reduce the amount of lift that is generated by the wind sails. As a result, the hull design of a ship that is equipped with wind sails needs to be optimized to balance drag and lift.

One way to do this is to use a hull design that has a wider beam and a shallower draft. This will increase the surface area of the hull that is exposed to the wind, which will generate more lift. Additionally, a wider beam will help to reduce the side force that is generated by the wind sails, which will improve the overall stability of the ship.

Another important consideration is the placement of the wind sails on the hull. The sails should be placed in a way that maximizes the amount of wind that they can catch. Additionally, the sails should be placed in a way that minimizes the amount of interference between the sails and the hull.

  1. Integration and Positioning of Wind Sails: The first step in optimizing hull design for wind sail integration is determining the most effective placement and arrangement of the sails on the ship. Factors such as wind conditions, ship size, and cargo arrangements must be considered to ensure maximum wind capture and minimal interference with other shipboard operations.
  2. Structural Reinforcement: Wind sails impose additional loads on the ship’s structure due to the rotational forces generated. Therefore, hull designs need to incorporate structural reinforcement to withstand these loads. Advanced materials, such as carbon composites, can be utilized to provide strength and rigidity while minimizing weight.
  3. Aerodynamic Hull Shapes: The hull shape plays a crucial role in determining the efficiency of wind sail propulsion. Streamlined hull designs, with reduced resistance to wind and water, maximize the efficiency of wind capture and reduce drag. Innovative hull shapes, such as bulbous bows and streamlined sterns, can enhance the overall aerodynamic performance of the ship.
  4. Optimized Ballast Systems: Wind sail utilization affects the stability and balance of the ship. Optimized ballast systems can help counterbalance the additional forces applied by wind sails, maintaining stability and ensuring safe operations. These systems may include adjustable water ballast tanks, which can be strategically filled or emptied to compensate for changes in ship dynamics.
  5. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Analysis: CFD analysis is an invaluable tool in hull design optimization. It enables the evaluation of various hull configurations and wind sail arrangements in virtual simulations, providing insights into the performance of different designs before physical implementation. CFD analysis helps identify potential areas for improvement and ensures optimal utilization of wind energy.


Recent Research

By optimizing the hull design and the placement of the wind sails, it is possible to maximize the propulsive effects of new generation wind sails on large commercial ships. This can lead to significant reductions in fuel consumption and emissions, making a major contribution to the sustainability of the shipping industry.

Here are some examples of recent research on hull designs for wind-assisted propulsion:

  • A team of researchers from the University of Michigan developed a new hull design for wind-assisted vessels. The design uses a wider beam and a shallower draft to increase the amount of lift that is generated by the wind sails.
  • A team of researchers from the Technical University of Denmark developed a new method for optimizing the placement of wind sails on a ship hull. The method uses computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to identify the optimal placement of the sails for a given wind speed and direction.
  • A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore developed a new method for predicting the performance of wind-assisted vessels. The method uses CFD simulations to predict the amount of thrust and drag that is generated by the sails, as well as the overall fuel efficiency of the vessel.
  • Marine engineering consultants BAR Technologies and naval architects Deltamarin have partnered to optimize the hull designs of large commercial ships for wind propulsion. While significant progress has been made in designing wind sails above deck, the companies believe that underwater hull shapes are not fully maximizing the potential of wind propulsion technology.The partnership aims to develop hull forms that are specifically modified to maximize the power generated by wind. The effectiveness of these designs will depend on factors such as the type of vessel and its intended route. The companies have jointly developed designs for a new Aframax/LRII vessel, with the goal of achieving maximum efficiency and furthering research into underwater performance improvement.BAR Technologies, leveraging expertise from racing yachts, has previously developed rigid sail technology called WindWings. Working with Deltamarin, they have designed the first installations of WindWings, with the Pyxis Ocean dry bulk carrier being the first to have two WindWings installed. These installations are expected to save approximately 1.5 tonnes of fuel per WindWing per day, resulting in a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.The newly developed Aframax/LRII hull design, in combination with four WindWings, has the potential to save up to 10 tonnes of fuel per day on a North America/Rotterdam roundtrip. This represents a substantial step towards decarbonization in commercial shipping.

Emerging Trends and Innovations

  1. Smart Sensor Integration: Incorporating advanced sensors into the hull structure allows real-time monitoring of wind conditions, sail efficiency, and hull performance. Data collected from these sensors can be utilized to optimize sail orientation, adjust hull configurations, and enhance overall propulsion efficiency.
  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Optimal Control: AI algorithms can be employed to analyze real-time data from sensors, weather forecasts, and historical ship performance. By leveraging AI, ships can autonomously adjust wind sail orientations and make real-time decisions to optimize propulsion efficiency based on prevailing wind conditions.
  3. Hybrid Propulsion Systems: Combining wind sails with other sustainable propulsion technologies, such as electric or hybrid systems, can further enhance the efficiency of large commercial ships. These systems allow the utilization of wind energy during favorable conditions and seamlessly transition to alternative power sources when required.


As the shipping industry seeks to reduce its environmental impact, wind sail technology offers a promising solution. The successful integration of wind sails into large commercial ships requires thoughtful consideration of hull design. By optimizing wind sail placement, incorporating aerodynamic hull shapes, and integrating advanced technologies, ships can maximize the propulsive effects of wind energy. The ongoing advancements in hull design, combined with innovative solutions, will contribute to a greener and more sustainable future for the shipping industry, fostering the transition towards a low-carbon economy.


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