Di Gilpin’s Smart Green Shipping gets $6m project demonstrator boost

Private and public finding will help Smart Green Shipping build demonstrator models in next phase of realising sail-as-a service business model for wind propulsion

Diane Gilpin’s Smart Green Shipping has won a £5m ($6.1m/€6m) grant to move its wind propulsion design to the next phase.

Funding from the Scottish Government in the UK and from the private sector will go to a project to develop, build and test the SGS Wing Sail technology. Apart from SGS, the three-year project includes Malin, Drax, Peel Ports and Lloyd’s Register.


The goal is a demonstration of the concept on a commercial ship by the end of next year.


Diane Gilpin launched Smart Green Shipping in 2014 with the ambition of developing a retrofittable solution that can be fitted on as many vessels as possible. Recognizing the need to work closely with finance and industry it has taken these eight years to secure the private finding to move to this next stage (and which in turn unlocked the additional government funding).


Wind propulsion technologies, while being nascent has certainly begin to catch on, with a range of technology companies announcing initial projects to install systems on vessels in the last two years.


With regulations coming into force (CII and EEXI) that will impact vessel operations, and with the industry beginning to see more announcements about installations and real life examples of working technology there is a growing confidence in wind propulsion.

Most of the technologies gaining traction are wind assist systems, being retrofitted to offer an additional thrust, thus allowing ship engines to be used at a lower load, thus reducing fuel and reducing CO2 emissions.


Ms Gilpin has been keen to develop SGS with the notion of offering  some sort of leasing or rental scheme, where the cost f the system is gradually met through the fuel cost savings, model many see as being necessary in shipping where vessel charters and ship owners have different responsibilities over fuel bills.


SGS wing sail is called FastRig, and is a foldable semi rigid sail that being hinged can fold flat on a vessel’s deck when not In use. The concept is similar to other sail systems where the sail acts like a foil or wing, creating a pressure difference between different sides of the wing, which in turn creates some thrust which propels the vessel forward. While not being enough to propel an existing large commercial ship, this thrust can be a significant percentage of that needed for a ship to sail.


Smart Green Shipping has already performed a feasibility study (2018) to help secure the business support for the concept and hep bring Gilpin’s dream closer to reality.


The funding also helps the company, which has relocated to Dumfries in Scotland, employ staff to help build the specialised “TradeWInd” branded software that the partners in the project have developed, as well as the demonstrator sails themselves which will be installed at Peel Ports Hunterston Park nestled on the west coast of Scotland near Glasgow (and close to one of Scotland’s last nuclear power stations which is in the process of being decommissioned).


This test rig will then lead to the installation of a shipboard system in 2023.


Data for the software began though route data collection from an Ultrabulk vessel which led to t a digital twin and then the software. SGS is not the only company developing wind assist solution to promise an autonomous system with accompanying software.


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