Project examines retrofitting sails to nuclear transport ships

09 June 2023

Nuclear Transport Solutions (NTS) - part of the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority - has partnered with renewable marine technology specialist Smart Green Shipping (SGS) to investigate the retrofitting of new sail technology on its specialist nuclear transport ships.

Artist's concept of the rigid sails (Image: NTS)

NTS ships are operated by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd (PNTL), which is owned mainly by NTS and partly by the French nuclear fuel company Orano and a consortium of Japanese utilities which use its services.

PNTL operates three diesel-powered specialist ships for the transport of high-level waste and other nuclear material: the Pacific Heron, the Pacific Egret and the Pacific Grebe. So far PNTL has shipped more than 2000 nuclear casks some 5 million miles to countries including Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA.

The collaboration project between NTS and SGS - which is developing unique FastRig retrofit sails and technology for sustainable commercial ships - will inform future opportunities which could see the sails fitted to ships, reducing vessel fuel consumption by about 20% and cutting associated CO2 emissions.

The project is part of a two-year plan called Winds of Change, which will run from April 2023 to March 2025. The Winds of Change project held its first in-person kick-off meeting on 3 May at the University of Southampton. The project is itself part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition Round 3 (CMDC3), which was announced in September 2022, funded by the UK Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with InnovateUK. As part of the CMDC3, the Department allocated GBP60 million (USD75 million) to 19 flagship projects supported by 92 UK organisations to deliver real world demonstration R&D projects in clean maritime solutions.

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. SGS is currently installing a land-based test and demonstration FastRig at Hunterston Parc in Scotland. The learning from this project informs the safety, technical and performance parameters for the on-ship installation scheduled for 2024. 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.

The Pacific Grebe (Image: PNTL)

PNTL's Pacific Grebe is being assessed and a feasibility study drawn up to consider the practicalities of fitting the FastRig sails.

"As owners of UK-flagged, high-quality specialist vessels, we're committed to support UK shipping net zero initiatives," said Andy Milling, Marine Manager at NTS. "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 has convened a group of highly experienced technical and commercial organisations to deliver the project and it's exciting to see how we will implement this technology with safety, security and reliability remaining our top priorities."

"To have the opportunity to work with such a highly specialist ship and her deeply knowledgeable crew and managers, gives us an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the feasibility of retrofitting SGS FastRig wingsails onto ships with the highest safety standards," added SGS CEO Di Gilpin. "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."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News