UK-based shipowner Union Maritime is to install wind propulsion technology on 34 newbuildings, a move that founder and managing director Laurent Cadji describes as providing the biggest “bang for the buck” for his company.

Cadji was talking on TradeWinds’ GreenSeas podcast about the decision to install wind propulsion systems and to take a significant stake in one of the companies whose systems will be deployed.

“Wind, as a big-ticket play, became the obvious choice for us to make the biggest moves from a capital commitment,” Cadji told TradeWinds.

“Wind is the angle that we’ve chosen to back wholeheartedly as the biggest bang for our buck, where we have decided to commit the first wave of big capital because we see the value that we are deriving from wind.”

TradeWinds reported earlier in the year that Union Maritime’s newbuilding orderbook had reached $1.4bn as it added four aframax product tankers last month.

According to Clarksons, its orderbook consists of 35 vessels, including two open-hatch dry bulk vessels, with orders spanning nine Chinese yards and one in Vietnam.

This includes 13 LR2 tankers, plus options, with delivery in 2027, as well as eight MR tankers and 12 chemical and oil tankers. They are all LNG dual-fuelled and come with other energy-saving solutions.

Union Maritime commercial performance manager Jesse Bryce confirmed that of 12 chemical tankers on order, the first six will have Norsepower’s Flettner rotors installed, with no confirmed decision about the other half-dozen.

Eight of the MR tankers on order, as well as the LR2 tankers, will all have the fixed-wing system from UK-based BAR Technologies. They will all be delivered by the end of 2027, although further wind technology installations are possible.

Norsepower’s Flettner rotors will be installed on at least six Union Maritime chemical tankers. Photo: Norsepower

Both Norsepower and BAR Technologies have announced deals with Chinese engineering firms in recent months to ramp up local production capabilities to meet demand.

The move to install cleantech systems on the Union Maritime newbuildings comes shortly after the Cadji family took a controlling stake in Union Maritime, increasing from the 50:50 partnership with Kansagra-controlled Solai Holdings, and in successful capital-raising rounds to support its newbuilding order spree.

Union Maritime has also taken a stake in BAR Technologies, making it the second shipowner to do so after Singapore-based Berge Bulk, a move that Cadji said would allow BAR Technologies and Union Maritime’s technical and fleet performance team to align.

“We feel the next generation of developments will take us beyond WindWings. BAR as a technology company has some exciting visions which align well,” he said.

“We see both companies providing a lot of cross value with our engineering skill set, and where our assets can be physical test beds,” he said.

As well as the WindWings solution, BAR Technologies has developed a design for a unique high-speed surface and subsurface workcraft, a hull foil system and crew transfer vessels with a unique outrigger design.

The company originated out of competitive ocean yacht racing.

To date, BAR Technologies has six WindWings systems installed on two vessels, the Berge Bulk-owned 210,000-dwt Berge Olympus (built 2018) has four and the 80,962-dwt Pyxis Ocean (built 2017) has two.

BAR Technologies’ wind propulsion system. Photo: BAR Technologies

Norsepower can boast systems on a growing number of vessels, largely as retrofits, since its launch in 2012.

It recently announced it had won an order for 18 Flettner rotors to be installed on three newbuildings ordered by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs destined for an Airbus charter.