Commercial History

Walker Wingsail and the MV Ashington

In the period 1986-88, the Walker wingsail design was evaluated on the commercial ship MV Ashington. One of the captains of the vessel at that time was Captain Roger Francis, who was able to provide a copy of the final report of the wingsail evaluation.

In the Ashington's trading area, "usable wind" was restricted during the trial to approximately 30% of the total passage time. Average wind speeds were relatively low. There was also significant downtime due to necessary wingsail maintenance, and the vessel's fuel consumption results were not consistent. In summary, the wingsail produced thrust equivalent to 8% of normal engine load.

The Board of the shipping company (Stephenson Clarke Shipping Ltd) took the view that due to the low cost of fuel and limited availability of "usable wind" on the trading routes, the wingsail did not satisfy the company's payback criteria.

Other Attempts

Much later, in May 1996, the publication Pacific Maritime reported on two Japanese vessels, Aqua City and Usuki Pioneer, which evaluated wingsails over the period from 1984 to 1993. These trials claimed 30-40% savings in fuel costs in ideal wind conditions. However, high maintenance costs and falling oil prices caused the demise of both projects.

In the summer of 2001, senior personnel in both BP and Shell were contacted to see if increased oil prices and more environmentally friendly policies would encourage them to reconsider the wingsail as a means to reduce fuel consumption. At present, there is little or no interest from either company.

Looking to the future

An ambitious project to power the MV Ashington with wingsails, which though in practice was not a commercial success, may hold some promise for the future.

The main application in the short term will continue to be recreational craft.