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Enviva and MOL to develop sail-powered bulk carrier to cut GHG emissions in biomass supply chain; Wind Challenger hard sail

Enviva, a global renewable energy company specializing in sustainable wood bioenergy, and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), a leading global marine transport group, signed a memorandum of understanding agreement to develop and to deploy an environmentally friendly bulk carrier.

The goal of the agreement is to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the ocean transportation of sustainable wood pellets. In the initial stage, the partnership will explore the environmental benefits, commercial and operational feasibilities of various technologies. This will include the “Wind Challenger”, a cargo ship design with a hard sail, which would reduce emissions by harnessing wind energy.

MOL has been jointly studying the wind technology with cross-industrial partners.

We are truly excited about this partnership, and it comes at a perfect timing as we start our new business entity, MOL Drybulk, this April. By integrating the various areas of Drybulk businesses amongst our group, MOL Drybulk will aim to improve our service and provide solutions to meet the various needs of our customers, including the reduction of emissions from our shipping service. This is not an easy challenge, especially when we aim to introduce new technologies such as the Wind Challenger, so it is extremely encouraging to have Enviva as our partner, whose core mission is to fight climate change, and with their passion and determination, have proved that they can make a difference.

—Toshiaki Tanaka, Managing Executive Officer and Chief Environment and Sustainability Officer of MOL

Plans to develop the Wind Challenger started in 2009 as an industry-academia joint research project led by the University of Tokyo. MOL took charge of the plan in 2018 and has been working on the technology since. The first Wind Challenger is scheduled to be released in 2022.

The system converts wind energy to propulsive force with a telescopic hard sail. The long-term goal is to develop a widely accepted shipping solution to achieve the International Maritime Organization target in combination with other measures to reduce GHG by equipping vessels with multiple sails.



Rendering of bulk carrier with a single extended Wind Challenger sail underway (top) and with contracted sail in port (bottom).

In December 2020, MOL reached a coal transport deal with Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc., using a coal carrier equipped with a hard sail wind power propulsion system. The introduction of the Wind Challenger technology is expected to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by about 5% on the Japan-Australia route or about 8% on the Japan-North America West Coast route, in comparison with a conventional vessel of the same class.

MOL and Tohoku Electric Power are conducting more verification tests on the system’s GHG reduction effects toward the 2022 target date for the new carrier to begin operation.


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