A broad appraisal of the economic and technical requisites for a wind driven merchant vessel

Wellicome, J.F. (1975) A broad appraisal of the economic and technical requisites for a wind driven merchant vessel , Southampton, UK University of Southampton 27pp. (Ship Science Reports, 3).


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The current high level of bunker fuel prices and the prospect of dwindling oil supplies in the comparatively near future may well lead to a reappraisal of the means of propulsion used by commercial ships.

If oil fuel becomes uneconomic the foreseeable alternatives are nuclear power or a return to sail. One could claim that the future of nuclear power is in doubt from long term pollution and safety considerations. It is also true that for technical reasons nuclear power is only suited to large or fast ships requiring 30 000 shp upwards. Thus there may well be grounds for considering a return to sail at least for the transportation of those commodities which do not command a high freight rate.

In the event of a return to sail it would obviously be possible to reintroduce square and fore-and-aft rigged vessels similar to those existing at the turn of this century, but with design changes incorporating the use of ancillary power for sail handling purposes. However, during the last 50 years a number of alternative means of achieving wind propulsion have emerged which suggest the possibility of a radically different form of wind propulsion.

The paper is in two parts. Part A is concerned with the current economic prospects of sail as a direct competitor to the oil fueled motor-ship. It is argued that increasing oil costs force down the economic speed of a motor-ship to a point where averaged voyage times may not be significantly better than are achievable under sail and goes on to discuss the operating and constructional costs of a typical general cargo vessel of about 20 000 tonnes displacement as a motor vessel and as a sailing vessel. Part B is concerned with the technical characteristics of ships of this size fitted with several alternative means of wind propulsion each of which has distinctly different operating characteristics. The discussion is limited to the possible aerodynamic and hydrodynamic performance characteristics of the proposed vessels. In particular, there is no discussion of the structural or other engineering problems that coud arise with some of the alternatives, nor does it discuss the associated problems in cargo handling that may arise.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Additional Information: ISSN 0140-3818 Also published in occasional publication No. 2, "The future of commercial sail" a selection of the papers presented at the meeting of the royal institution of naval architects small craft group. London, 27th November 1975.
ePrint ID: 43217
Date :
Date Event
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2007
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2017 18:49
Further Information:Google Scholar
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/43217

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