Brazilian mining giant Vale has signed a contract with Omani shipowner Asyad to equip Valemax, the world’s largest ore carrier, with cutting-edge wind-assisted propulsion technology. This will make the Valemax the world’s largest ship with a wind propulsion system.
Valemax is the world’s largest ore carrier, which is 362 meters long and 65 meters wide and is able to carry up to 400,000 metric tons of cargo. The fleet of Valemax vessels usually operates on long-distance routes connecting Brazil, China, and the Middle East. These routes are ideal for wind propulsion, and Vale is analyzing the savings that could result from installing Anemoi rotor sails.
The agreement involves the installation of five cylindrical rotor sails developed by British manufacturer Anemoi. This technology uses wind propulsion to provide energy efficiency gains and reduce emissions.
Anemoi Rotor Sails, known as ‘Flettner Rotors,’ are manufactured from highly engineered lightweight composites to achieve excellent performance with minimized additional weight. These cylindrical rotors on the Valemax will be around 35 meters high and 5 meters in diameter. They will capture wind energy to augment the vessel’s forward thrust and enhance energy efficiency.
At the heart of the Rotor Sail is a strong steel tower that carries all the loads safely into the ship structure. These rotors turn to create a pressure difference in order to move the ship forward, based on a phenomenon known as the Magnus Effect.
The use of this technology offers the possibility of reducing the power and the energy consumption of the ship’s main engine when wind conditions are favorable, saving fuel and maintaining speed and travel time.
The adaptation work on the very large ore carrier (VLOC) Sohar Max is due to be completed in the second quarter of 2024 when trials will begin. The rotor sails will be fitted on Anemoi’s folding deployment system so that the sails can be folded vertically and minimize the impact on air draught and cargo handling operations.
The installation of Anemoi rotor sails is expected to reduce fuel consumption by approximately 6% and curtail CO2 emissions by up to 3,000 tons per ship per year. Anemoi Technologies’ wind-powered technology has already proven its effectiveness in reducing fuel consumption. In June 2023, the technology was successfully retrofitted on a Kamsarmax bulk carrier, resulting in over 10% annual fuel savings.
The agreement to install rotor sails on the Sohar Max is the sixth and final agreement that has been planned with Asyad to test innovative technologies on four ships chartered by Vale. Previous projects included the use of silicone paint to reduce resistance, the installation of frequency inverters to reduce electricity consumption, and the use of hydrodynamic devices to improve propulsion. All the ships have real-time data collection systems installed to monitor these technologies.
Vale’s shipping area has created the Ecoshipping program, an R&D initiative to integrate advanced technologies into navigation to meet the company’s challenge of reducing its carbon emissions in line with the goals set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
“Wind energy will play a central role in our strategy to decarbonize the maritime transportation of iron ore,” says Vale’s Shipping Technical Manager, Rodrigo Bermelho. “In addition, all these Ecoshipping pilot projects will produce valuable information for the next generation of Guaibamax ships.”