3rd December 2013 14:48 GMT
In winds of at least 12 metres per second there will be no need for main engines
Designs for a wind-powered ocean-going cargo vessel could be ready for the market within three years.
A Japanese consortium wants to commercialise its project by 2016, according to the Japanese news provider Nikkei.
In the meantime, the Japanese government has pledged almost $100,000 to help cover development costs.
The consortium includes the Japanese shipping lines Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), Nippon Yusen (NYK), Kawasaki Kisen (K Line) and Oshima Shipbuilding.
It has been working with Tokyo University to develop an 80,000 gross tonne (gt) vessel that can be driven by wind, conventional fuel or a combination of both.
The consortium is currently building a half-size prototype at a shipyard in near Nagasaki. It plans to have it finished by the end of the year, according to the Nikkei report.
Designs call for the vessel to have five sails, 20 meters wide and 50 meters tall. The rigid sails are to be made of aluminium and fibre-reinforced plastic and will be controlled by computer to find the best trim.
When the wind is weak, the ship will use intermediate fuel oil (IFO) but in winds of at least 12 metres per second the ship will be able to operate under sail power alone.
Some predictions claim bunker consumption could be halved.
Nick Jameson, London News Desk
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