The Merchant Navy sets sail again


Sailing cargo is booming. While traditional maritime freight accounts for nearly 3% of CO2 emissions in Europe, it is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. (1), With more than 90,000 merchant ships in circulation, a French startup, NEOLINE, has found an innovative response to the universal environmental challenge while remaining within an industrial and competitive framework, by using a renewable, clean and free 100% energy: wind.

Will we soon be done with these gigantic cargo ships that pollute oceans, air, ports and human health? Yet the transport of goods on water is as old as the invention of ships. And the world's merchant fleet is growing as the volume of goods consumed across the planet grows.
Software is already available to calculate more efficient routes based on weather, tides and currents, where these ships would use current and wind to carry themselves, and thus be less polluting and consume less energy. Engineers and prospectors have imagined adapting the principle of the SkySails or "kites "11 to save 10 to 35 % of fuel. Proof is there that the sail could make a strong comeback.

The NEOLINE project will build freighters equipped with duplex rigging (4 masts) with 4200 m² of sails which will be the main propulsion of the vessel, allowing to aim for 90% reduction in fuel consumption and thus associated emissions.
At the origin of this project was the commitment of a group of Merchant Navy officers federated by Michel Péry, commander of roll-on/roll-off vesselsIn the past few years, the shipping industry was convinced that climate change would lead the shipping industry to consider new propulsion systems to improve its environmental performance.
What brings them together: the conviction that the working sail is the only truly sober solution, immediately available and powerful enough to propel cargo ships.

At the end of four years of reflection and design work devoted to the filing of an international patent, the NEOLINE company was created in 2015, to take up the challenge of environmental issues.
In a highly competitive globalised trade market and in the face of accelerating environmental and regulatory requirements, maritime transport must make an unprecedented effort to adapt its operating methods.

A major innovation in the face of environmental challenges

Indeed, this type of transport alone accounts for 7% of the world's oil consumption; it is therefore particularly concerned by the reduction of polluting and greenhouse effect emissions, especially since the fuels used today are highly polluting, due in particular to their sulphur dioxide (SOX) content. Despite the new regulations announced, a new James Corbett screening estimates that by 2020, marine fuel oil will still be responsible for about 250,000 deaths and 6.4 million cases of asthma in children each year.

Moreover, the main reason why ships pollute so much is the use of heavy fuel oil as fuel. According to the ICCT 2017 report, in 2015, all ships in the oceans contributed about 2.6 % of global CO2 emissions (932 million tons of CO2); in 2018, we were at 4% of global CO2 emissions.
According to different sources, the share of maritime transport in emissions varies from 5 to 10 % for sulphur oxides (SOx); from 15 to 30 % for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and can reach up to 50% of fine particles in some coastal areas. Energy-intensive, each of these floating monsters generates as much ultra-fine particle pollution as a million cars. Little known to the general public, this pollution damages the health of the inhabitants of port cities.

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Faced with this challenge, the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) finally adopted a text at the end of 2019 which proposes to the sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships by at least 50 % by 2050 (compared to 2008). It also sets 2023 as the target date for its revised CO2 emissions strategy.
Plus, immediately, they must meet a reduction in the sulphur content of fuels from 3.5% to 0.5% as of January 1, 2020. With this new standard combined with the increase in oil prices, ship owners expect an exceptional increase in their fuel budget.

As for the solutions for adapting ships (gigantism, slow steaming, scrubbers, LNG, etc.), they are costly, remain limited and, in some cases, generate new forms of pollution.

READ UP'. : Merchant Marine with all sails out! The return.

In this context, NEOLINE's solution of using wind power, based on the exploitation of inexhaustible and clean energy, takes on its full meaning.

Industrialists believe in themselves

It was November 2018. The startup NEOLINE signed a first partnership with the Renault Group, on the occasion of the Assises de la Mer. The aim: to develop a sustainable maritime transport service using wind power, and thus contribute to the environmental management of its logistics chain, as nearly 60% of the Group's parts and vehicles are transported by sea.

In order to provide a maritime transport solution that meets the current environmental challenges, NEOLINE is developing industrial-scale sail freight services that are cleaner, tailored and competitive, corresponding to the shippers' logistical needs.
This shipowner's project enabled the design of a cargo ship capable of reducing CO2 emissions by up to 90%, compared to a traditional cargo ship on an equivalent route, by using main wind propulsion combined with a reasoned economic speed of 11 knots and optimisation of the energy mix.

A first ship, 136 metres long and with a sail area of 4200 square metres, named "Neoliner", will be built by the Saint-Nazaire-based company Neopolia Mobility, combining in an innovative way technical solutions from the field of maritime transport, but also from the field of sports sailing, in order to allow transport that is both efficient in logistical and economic terms, as well as being exemplary in terms of sobriety. The ambition is to build two ships based on this model, with the objective of entering into service in 2020 - 2021, on a pilot line that will link St-Nazaire, the east coast of the United States, and Saint-Pierre & Miquelon.

A first in the maritime sector: EDF and NEOLINE have just signed an agreement last December to make the most of the energy savings made by the main vellic propulsion of its sailing cargo ships. This is a specific agreement for the delivery of Energy Saving Certificates (EEC) which confirms and enhances the high environmental performance of the young owner's future sailing merchant ships.

On the basis of the "Neoliner", the startup's first pilot ship, EDF has carried out studies with its R&D to quantify the energy savings that can be made: NEOLINE's main-sail propulsion ship model will save 600,000 MWh cumac over fifteen years, i.e. the production of three 6 MW wind turbines for ten years. (2) or the energy consumption of a city of 9,000 inhabitants for ten years.

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"Neoliner finds its investor

The family group Sogestran, together with its subsidiary Compagnie Maritime Nantaise -MN, will assist NEOLINE in financing its first ships and the operational implementation of the pilot line. This merger between the two Nantes-based shipowners underlines the audacity present in the Ligérien region and reinforces its industrial and maritime potential.

For NEOLINE, the arrival of a leading player in the maritime and inland waterway world means that it can benefit from recognised expertise for the launch of its innovative main-sail propelled sailing cargo ships, in which Sogestran will also be one of the reference investors.

For the Compagnie Maritime Nantaise -MN, as an operational partner of NEOLINE, this association will allow the development of its ship management and operation activities on behalf of a third party, with a strong opening to energy transition.

For the Sogestran group, this investment is in line with its maritime ambitions, as the association with NEOLINE will enable the group to accelerate the energy and environmental improvement of its activities, as well as its positioning around the values to which the group is already committed.

Pointing the finger at its impact on the environment, the maritime transport sector is today facing intense regulatory and societal pressure to accelerate its energy transition.
NEOLINE's shipowner model, based on energy performance with the use of wind energy as the main propulsion of its vessels, trained and involved crews associated with advanced weather routing systems, can target the 90% of reduction in consumption and therefore associated pollutant emissions. These ships will also be able to test a set of complementary technologies to move towards zero emissions in the medium term, a goal France has set itself for 2050 in the 2017 climate plan.

With the support of these reference players such as Renault Group, Manitou Group and Beneteau Group, who have demonstrated the logistical and economic relevance of the new service for the region's manufacturers, NEOLINE is therefore planning to place an order for "Neoliner" for an early commissioning of the pilot line.

Pascal Girardet, Chairman of the Sogestran Group and Chairman of the Compagnie Maritime Nantaise - MN, states ". to contribute to the emergence of a new economic and ecological model in maritime transport, which we are convinced is promising for the future. "

For Jérôme Navarro, Managing Director of the Compagnie Maritime Nantaise - MN, he has "the ambition to be pioneers in the development of new, more environmentally friendly shipping lines".

As for Michel Péry, President of NEOLINE, he says to himself " We are particularly pleased that the Sogestran group is joining us as a structuring partner, with whom we share strong entrepreneurial and ethical values. The support of this renowned family group will be a decisive asset for the rapid implementation of our innovative, environmentally exemplary and economically sound maritime service. "

As René Trégouët, Honorary Senator, Founder of the Senate's Foresight Group and often invited contributor to UP', explains, "Faced with the challenge of climate change and environmental protection, the transport sector will enable the sailing navy to live a new golden age, and the strength of the wind will make a decisive contribution to giving humanity the means to definitively emerge from the era of fossil fuels. Our country, a great maritime power, must obviously take its rightful place in this extraordinary technological and economic transformation that is taking shape and will continue to do so throughout this century. »

It is high time to "Be with the element", to enter into a relationship of duet and syntony, ally and accomplice (Guérard, 2006) with the sea. As Bachelard has clearly pointed out, "water is not always an adversity overcome, a proud victory over an opposing element, a male joy to puncture reality. (3). The return of the merchant navy under sail is therefore on a non-offensive, more ecological side, without a relationship of domination, of possession of the sea but in an exchange of quality services. Contrary to a desire for power, exploitation or colonisation, a relationship of participation, adhesion, synergy and convergence must be established, according to a " insertion principle "dear to Simondon (4).





(1) Source : IEA
(2) Source : Environmental Authority General Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development
(3) Gaston Bachelard, 1942
(4) Gilbert Simondon, "Art and the World".

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