America’s Cup victory sparks roro innovation

France is proving to be a leader in the adoption of wind propulsion for merchant shipping, with the latest innovation inspired by yachting’s premier race.

Paris-headquartered naval architects VPLP Design have unveiled a new 121 m long roro vessel, which will transport components of the Ariane 6 rocket from Europe to French Guiana. The vessel will be equipped with four Oceanwings, VPLP’s new automated and reefable soft wingsail system.

Ariane Group, the primary contractor for the Ariane launch vehicle, put out a call for tenders concerning the transportation of the various parts of the new Ariane 6 launcher from Europe to the launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana. The contract to build was awarded to the maritime company Alizés, a joint venture between the offshore services specialist Jifmar and Zéphyr & Borée, a young maritime company specialising in carbon-free transport.

VPLP Design was entrusted by Alizés with the task of designing a ship – named Canopée – in accordance with the specifications of the project. The design firm came up with a roro, which features a bridge in the bow and an open deck aft with high sides to protect the cargo.

Canopée’s hybrid propulsion comprises four 30 m high Oceanwings providing a total surface area of 1,452 sq m. These wingsails assist the ship’s main propulsion system to reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 30%, VPLP claimed in a release today. The design company has now created a subsidiary to start marketing this new wind propulsion system.

The new roro design unveiled today also has a dual fuel engine (LNG and MDO), variable pitch propellers and solar panels.

For VPLP Design, this project is the fruit of a long period of gestation which began with the firm’s collaboration with BMW Oracle and victory in the 2010 America’s Cup with a trimaran featuring a rigid wingsail.

This experience left VPLP cofounder Marc Van Peteghem with the firm conviction that the expertise gained in the world of yacht racing could be applied to innovating maritime transport.

In July this year, Splash reported French car manufacturer Renault is to get 80-90% reduction in CO2 emissions transporting its vehicles on newly commissioned sail roros when they start to deliver in 2021.

Nantes-based Neoline, which is developing industrial-scale wind-powered freight services, has selected Neopolia from the Loire region of France to build two sail roros with the first one due for delivery in 2021.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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