Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Return to Sailboats for Ocean Freight

Nick Stephens in his blog points out that Frederic Albert had started a company to transport wine via sailboat "to do something for the planet." The blog is here: This got me thinking - has technology reached the point where putting sails back on ocean going freighters makes sense? Or has oil reached a price at where it would work? It turns out that this has been stuided by the Danish EPA. The results surprised me: Scope of AnalysisThe analysis and comparison of the product carriers was based on a full years sailing. An evaluation of the implications of lower speed for the wind-driven product carrier was made. Effects of varying the bunker price when sailing at 13 knots was also performed.ConclusionEven though the wind-driven product carrier receives extra propulsion power via the sails, its costs are higher than for the conventional product carrier. Thus, the conventional product carrier has a commercial advantage over the wind-driven product carrier in both the Atlantic and the Indian-Pacific trade pattern. Measured in required freight rate (RFR), the wind-driven product carrier requires an appr.10% higher freight rate in order to cover its total costs per day.Voyage costs of the wind-driven product carrier are higher, because bunker costs at 13 knots are higher than those of the conventional product carrier. With regard to operating and capital costs, added costs of the wind-driven product carrier are substantial compared to the conventional product carrier, due to sail and rig.As far as the two trade patterns are concerned, the cost difference between the conventional and the wind-driven product carriers is substantially higher in the Indian-Pacific trade pattern than in the Atlantic trade pattern, which indicates that the Atlantic trade pattern is more beneficial to the wind-driven carrier.The sensitivity analysis of the bunker costs show that the bunker costs of the wind-driven product carrier are higher, and grow faster, than the conventional tanker, when bunker prices increase. This means that total costs of the wind-driven product carrier will be higher than for the conventional product carrier for given bunker prices. This goes for both the Atlantic and Indian-Pacific trade patterns.If the service speed of the wind-driven product carrier is lowered, there is a negative coherence between the service speed and the required freight rate (RFR) for the wind-driven product carrier. This means that a lower service speed requires a lower freight rate in order to cover total costs. The relative decrease in required freight rate is lower between 12 and 13 knots than between 11 and 12 knots.Bunker costs are most positively affected by decreasing service speed in terms of the wind-driven product carrier. This decrease is larger for the Atlantic trade pattern than for the Indian-Pacific trade pattern.Comments on the Mærsk Broker StudyWith given premises regarding speed, trading areas, commercial conditions etc., the conclusion was clear: WindShips were not able compete on commercial terms with conventional ships.Furthermore: WindShips, in the Indian-Pacific trading area, will consume more or equal amount of HFO than the conventional ship. The lack of favourable winds combined with the lower propulsion efficiency at 13 knots average sailing speed resulted in nothing but additional costs when adding a rig. Adding to this is the assumed higher consumption of MDO for the WindShip. So, if I read this right no matter what the price of fuel it will never make sense. What do you think?

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