Wind Power Utilisation and Ships – An Overview

1. Introduction

Ocean shipping traffic, together with its waste gas problems (NOx, SOx and soot particles), has so far led a strangely quiet existence in climate discussions.

Practice-based (waste gas) experience in test runs with new ships and the increasing energy costs and climate problems inherent in existing ships has resulted in a discussion and working group being founded in Hamburg (Germany) on the problematic issue of "Ships and climate". A group of specialists, already active over many years within the German Wind Energy Association / Bundesverband Windenergie e.V., has since formed to publicly examine and discuss waste gas flows and drive alternatives in shipping.

Wind energy utilisation can of course look back over a very long history in shipping and is now back in full force in the spotlight due to the dramatic increases in fuel prices. Combinations of old and new technologies are now asked for in order to implement the idea of environmentally-friendly, long-term shipping.

Various aspects of wind energy utilisation for shipping are looked at below:

2. Various technologies – Stages in large sailing ship development

a) DynaRig by W. Prölss

In the 70's, the plans by the shipping engineer Wilhelm Prölss from Hamburg initiated the commitment of the working group mentioned earlier. He named the merchant ship with the novel sail drive that he had developed "DynaRig". This was intended to utilise the wind in modern shipping in a profitable or cost reducing manner.


This sail system called "INDOSAIL" was first used at the beginning of this century in the construction of a private ship in Hamburg and is now sailing across the oceans. The Greenpeace action ship "Rainbow Warrior" with its "INDOSAIL" rig was also developed by Peter Schenzle in Hamburg. A cargo sailing ship called "Maruya Yata 900" is also in service in Indonesia.

Photo: Heinz Otto


Another very promising Hamburg ship drive system is currently in development: SKYSAIL, a towing kite system, which is being supported with public research money.

Details can be found under

d) DynaRig rediscovered: Maltese Falcon

The probably most significant step towards a system change in ship drive systems is described below. The "DynaRig" from the 21st century is based on the old "Hamburg" plans drawn up by Wilhelm Rölss and is currently being developed in the Mediterranean. The owner wants to set new standards in ship speeds: The private 3-mast sailing ship called the "Maltese Falcon" was presented and discussed during a ship design congress in the Netherlands.

The 87 m long ship with 2396 m2 sail area over 3 masts is under construction at Perini Navi. The carbon fibre yards and masts are being made by the company Insensys (UK) and the sails supplied by Doyle. The German company Sinnex is supplying the interior equipment.

The vision of the DynaRig / Maltese Falcon is shown in the following image:

Details and current developments (log book) can be found under

e) In addition, there are further projects in development around the world for wind-powered shipping, for example:


Heinz Otto
German Wind Energy Association / BWE Bundesverband WindEnergie e.V. Hamburg