The Estraden is a Finnish cargo ship that sails the North Sea six times a week. And though it burns oil, it is sailing in the sense that its engines are powered in part by the wind.
The Rotor Sail is the wind-power technology enabling the wide-scale experiment to green the shipping industry, and it’s produced by the Finnish company Norsepower. These sails, which are spinning cylinders fitted to a ship’s deck, harness wind power and produce forward thrust, so the ship needs less fuel — a major boost to the industry that transports 90 percent of international trade.
The merchant shipping industry releases 2.2 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, about the same as an industrialized country such as Germany, and the International Maritime Organization estimates that could increase up to 250 percent by 2050 if no action is taken. But if all 50,000 merchant ships adopted Norsepower Rotor Sails, the costs saved on fuel would be over $7 billion a year, and the emissions prevented would equal to the output from more than 12 coal-fired power plants.
VICE News took a ride on the Estraden to see the technology that’s taking the industry one step closer to achieving zero-emission ships.
This segment originally aired October 3, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.