French tyre maker Michelin is aiming to fit inflatable sail systems on ships to cut emissions.

The group's research and development arm has unveiled its Wing Sail Mobility (Wisamo) project, developed with two Swiss inventors.

The inflatable sail is used in tandem with a telescopic mast to harness wind power.

This can increase fuel efficiency by up to 20%, the company claimed.

Michelin said the retractable mast avoids problems with bridge and port clearance heights.

This makes it suitable for every maritime route, the French company added.

Trial phase next year

Michelin views its systems as a cheaper way to decarbonise while vessel designers and fuel producers work on zero-emission shipping.

The sails will be fitted to a merchant ship for a trial phase in 2022. It is hoped production will follow after that.

This is not the first time Michelin has backed wind power.

In February, the multinational signed up to ship some of the tyres it makes in Nova Scotia, Canada, across the Atlantic to France on a cargo vessel powered mainly by sail.

The agreement is with French start-up Neoline.

"This initiative and this new partnership promote innovation in the field of carbon-free transport," Pierre-Martin Huet, Michelin's supply chain director, said in a statement at the time.

Boxes to be moved

Michelin has committed to move about 100 containers a year from Halifax to the port of Saint-Nazaire in Brittany from 2023.

Neoline was founded in 2015 and already has backing from shippers Renault and Beneteau.

The ships will run at 11 knots with 4,200 square metres of sail area.