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Shofu Maru, a Cargo Ship Equipped With a Wind Challenger: Video Introduction

This video, titled "Shofu Maru, the World's First Bulk Carrier Equipped With a Wind Challenger (Rigid-Wing Sail Wind Propulsion System), Is Finally Complete! - MOL Wind Challenger Project" (世界初のウインドチャレンジャー(硬翼帆式風力推進装置)搭載ばら積み船「松風丸(しょうふうまる)」が竣工!―MOL Wind Challenger Project), was uploaded by "Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Official / MOL Channel" (商船三井公式チャンネル / MOL Channel).

The Shofu Maru, a ship equipped with a Wind Challenger, which converts wind energy directly into propulsion power to move a ship, has finally been completed. The video shows a Wind Challenger in operation and the construction process of the Shofu Maru.

As efforts to address SDGs become increasingly important, the Shofu Maru, a cargo ship powered by the inexhaustible energy of wind, is sure to catch the attention of the public.
Check out the video to see the ship using the latest technology known as the "Wind Challenger."

What is the Wind Challenger?

The Wind Challenger (a hard sail wind propulsion system) has been developed mainly by MOL (Mitsui O.S.K. Lines) and Oshima Shipbuilding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent global warming, which is becoming a serious concern in today's world.
Conventional ships use fossil fuels for propulsion, which results in significant emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The concept of the Wind Challenger is that a large vertical sail mounted on a ship rotates in response to the wind. This changes the airflow around the rotating sails and generates a force that propels the ship in the one direction, causing it to move forward.

A ship equipped with Wind Challengers are next-generation hard-sail ships and are expected to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What Is a 'Hard Sail'? Size, Characteristics, Advantages, Etc.

The huge hard sail mounted on the Shofu Maru look like towers. Hard sails are said to be an evolution of conventional sailboat technology.
Made of FRP (Fiber Reinforced Plastic), the sails can be extended and retracted in four levels. They can extend up to 53 meters, and automatic adjustment allows the sails to rotate and expand or contract according to the strength of the wind, capturing the wind and converting it into propulsion.

The advantages of hard sails are twofold:
1. The propulsive force of the sails gives the boat speed, allowing it to reach its destination faster
2. The power output of the main engine can be reduced because of the propulsive force of the sails, thus reducing fuel consumption without changing the number of days required to reach the destination.

Another feature and advantage of hard sails is that they are environmentally friendly as they utilize natural energy - wind.

Utilizing Wind Energy to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gases are gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and are considered a major contributor of global warming.
The Shofu Maru, a coal carrier equipped with a Wind Challenger as a dedicated ship for Tohoku Electric Power Company, is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5% on the Japan-Australia route and by 8% on the Japan-North America West Coast route compared to conventional ships of the same type.

A second sail is scheduled to be installed on a 50,000-60,000 DWT class ship transporting wood pellets, and future applications to crude oil tankers and LNG (liquefied natural gas) carriers are also being considered. It seems that the era of environmentally friendly hard sail ships is just around the corner.

Wind Challengers and SDGs

Image of SDGs

We hear a lot about the SDGs these days, but it was only about eight years ago, in September 2015, that they were adopted. The 17 goals were set forth for the 193 countries that are members of the United Nations to achieve over a 15-year period from 2016 to 2030.
SDGs, which stands for Sustainable Development Goals, are aimed at eliminating poverty around the world, protecting the planet, and ensuring that peace and prosperity are available to all.
The Wind Challenger is contributing to the following 6 of the 17 SDGs:
7. Affordable and clean energy
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action
14. Life below water
17. Partnerships for the goals

The Wind Challenger is a new technology that will help us to care for the global environment and actively address these SDGs.

Summary of the Wind Challenger, a Hard Sail Utilizing Wind Power

Environmental issues are a problem that must be addressed by countries around the world. In this context, the hard sail project is a plan to contribute to the global environment by focusing on wind, a natural energy source, instead of relying on fossil fuels.

As the number of vessels equipped with Wind Challengers increases, it may spread around the world as one of the efforts to protect the environment in the logistics industry. With all of this in mind, it's no stretch to call the Shofu Maru the world's most advanced cargo ship.

Written By
Last Updated : Dec. 3, 2023
平敷 篤(Atsushi Heishiki)
My name is Atsushi Heishiki, a writer who loves Japanese culture and lives in Okinawa.
Shofu Maru – Japan's Wind-Powered Cargo Ship With a Hard Sail
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