Driving a container ship or supertanker across the oceans takes a lot of power and consumes a lot of fuel, much of which is expended in overcoming the frictional resistance between the hull and the surrounding water. If the friction can be significantly reduced, a lot of fuel can be saved. The shipping industry is well aware of this, and always keeps a sharp lookout for new ideas in this area.
So more than a few telescopes will be trained on a multifreighter that is undergoing sea trials this week in a Norwegian fjord. For it is the first ship in the world to be equipped with an Air Cavity System, or ACS. Very briefly described, ACS is a carpet of air pumped into an elongated cavity under the hull, which enables the ship to glide more easily through the water. Less friction, less fuel consumed.
Up to 15% less fuel in fact, the system's Danish inventor Jørn Winkler estimates on the basis of numerous test tank experiments. Scaling up from a 7 metre model ship to a 2550 ton freighter is a sizeable step that requires sizeable capital. But that is what DK Group, the company formed to finance the life-size proof of concept trials, has achieved. 450 investors have put a total of DKK 150 m (USD 27 m) into the company's ballast tank. It's not a small financial risk they are taking, so understandably most of them are currently keeping their identities submerged.
The sea trials are being conducted with Force Technology (previously the Danish Maritime Institute) as an impartial observer that will document the results, and the classification agency Germanischer Lloyd has indicated its approval for the system to be installed in ships.
Christophe Witt of Germanischer Lloyd's development division says that the Air Cavity System has the potential to revolutionize the maritime industry by redefining fundamentals of ship design. Meanwhile the Danish Shipowners' Association is keeping a close eye on not only the fuel saving potential of the project, but also its potential for reducing the CO2 emissions of an industry that collectively funnels nearly a billion tons of the greenhouse gas into the air each year, making it one of the world's biggest contributors to atmospheric pollution.
But the fuel saving side alone is enough to whet the Danish Shipowners' Association's appetite. Director Hans Henrik Petersen comments: "Any savings of over 10% are interesting, so if the estimated savings of up to 15% hold good, it will be very interesting indeed to shipping companies."
The news was reported by Business.dk