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The UK’s Nuclear Transport Solutions (NTS), part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), is collaborating with renewable marine technology specialist Smart Green Shipping (SGS) to investigate retrofitting new sail technology on its specialist nuclear transport ships. SGS is developing unique FastRig retrofit sails and sustainable technology for commercial ships.

The project is part of a two-year plan, “Winds of Change”, which is currently undergoing technical, commercial and environmental assessments and will run until March 2025. It is part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition Round 3 (CMDC3), funded by the UK Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with InnovateUK. Fitting the sails to NTS ships could significantly reducing vessel fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. SGS is developing a test centre at Hunterston Parc in Scotland to support the safety, technical and performance data required for any future installation of the sails.

The Winds of Change project held its first in-person kick-off meeting on 3 May at the University of Southampton. SGS collaborates with the University of Southampton, Humphreys Yacht Design, Houlder, Malin Group, Caley Ocean Systems, Argo Engineering, Lloyd's Register, MOL DryBulk and Drax. The University of Southampton is working with SGS on verifying real world performance results against the mathematical modelling that predicted between 16% and 27% fuel/CO2 savings over an annual period. On-ship installation is scheduled for 2024.

NTS ships are operated by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd (PNTL), owned mainly by NTS with the participation of French nuclear fuel company Orano and a consortium of Japanese utilities that use its services. PNTL has three diesel-powered specialist ships that transport high-level waste and other nuclear material - the Pacific Heron, the Pacific Egret and the Pacific Grebe. To date PNTL has shipped more than 2,000 nuclear casks over 5m miles to many countries including Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. Pacific Grebe is being assessed for participation in the project and a feasibility study is being drawn up to consider the practicalities of fitting the sails.

Andy Milling, Marine Manager at NTS, said: “As owners of UK-flagged, high-quality specialist vessels, we’re committed to support UK shipping net zero initiatives. We’re excited to be working with SGS to address the highly complex technical challenges that arise from retrofitting wind-assist technology onto merchant vessels. Our motivation is to reduce vessel emissions whilst maintaining our high performance and critical delivery schedules.”

SGS CEO Di Gilpin said the opportunity to work with such a highly specialist ship provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the feasibility of retrofitting SGS FastRig wingsails onto ships with the highest safety standards. “If we are successful this will give comfort to shipowners and managers that this technology will not compromise their strict safety protocols. Testing the FastRig on land initially ensures we iron out any technical glitches before installing on a working vessel. We are honoured to be able to work with NTS on this exciting project.”

Image (top left): Rendering of the Smart Green Shipping FastRig wing sail (courtesy of NTS)

Image (bottom right): The Pacific Grebe at sea (courtesy of NTS)

Date: Wednesday, 14 June 2023
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