MOL Marvel windshield

Japanese ocean carrier MOL has successfully completed testing a windshield on the bow of one of its containerships, which it claims has saved fuel and reduced CO2 emissions by around 2%.

The windshield was installed on the 2010-built 6,700 teu MOL Marvel in September 2015 and was monitored during its service on the Asia-North America east coast route.

The horseshoe-shaped shield, which has sufficient strength to meet ClassNK rules concerning wave impact, encloses the front line of the stacked containers to optimise wind resistance.

MOL said: “With today’s larger containerships, the height of the containers loaded on deck has increased, subjecting the vessels to greater wind resistance.”

Obliquely setting containers behind the windshield made the vessel more streamlined, further reducing wind resistance, it added.

And MOL said the windshield also offered protection from problems caused by water, especially “green water” on the bow deck during bad weather.

Data was accumulated by comparing the operational performance of two sister ships on the same route, one with a windshield and one without. The testing eliminated data from the impact of ocean waves and extracting only that on differences in wind resistance.

The results of the analysis were presented at the Japan Society of Naval Architects and Ocean Engineers’ autumn and spring meetings in November and this month.

MOL said the test results confirmed “about 2% average CO2 reduction, sailing at 17 knots per hour, compared with an identical vessel at the same speed without the device installed”.

The carrier was continuing the testing “to confirm the windshield’s seaworthiness and sailing data analysis”, and looked forward to “more advanced technological development” based on the research project.

Slow-steaming, bulbous bow design and retrofitting and hulls coated with anti-fouling paint are all deployed by the major ocean carriers in a constant quest to reduce fuel costs and associated carbon emissions. Increased fuel costs were the primary reason why container lines generally posted disappointing first-quarter results this year.

A 60-70% hike in average bunker costs in the first three months on the same period of 2016 pushed both Maersk Line and Hapag-Lloyd into the red, despite analysts expecting the carriers to turn a profit on the back of a spike in freight rates.

MOL’s research into improving the aerodynamics of containerships, thus reducing fuel consumption, by fitting windshields will therefore no doubt interest its carrier peers.

Meanwhile, MOL announced last week a joint project with Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding for developing a concept for “an autonomous ocean transport system”.

MOL sees major benefits in the future of unmanned vessels, which it claimed include eliminating needless voyages, reducing logistics costs, offering a seamless connection with other modes of transport, minimising accidents at sea and reducing environmental impact.