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Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Work starts on fossil fuel free cargo ship set to transform shipping industry

Published: 21 June 2012Origin: Engineering
Testing designs in the towing tank

Development is underway to design the modern world’s first 100 per cent fossil fuel free sailing cargo ships.

With rising fossil fuel prices and the global challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this project is set to change the shipping industry by providing efficient and affordable low-carbon shipping. The project  combines proven technology, using the state of the art dyna-rig sail propulsion system with an off the shelf Rolls-Royce engine powered by waste derived liquid bio methane (liquid gas).

The ships are being developed by B9 Shipping, part of the B9 Energy group of companies, which has started work on a full-scale demonstration vessel  validating the engineering and economic assumptions of the initial vessel design.

The fundamental testing programme is being conducted at the University of Southampton's Wolfson Unit for marine technology and industrial aerodynamics (WUMTIA), which has provided innovative marine technology and industrial aerodynamics expertise for over 40 years to a world-wide customer base.

Diane Gilpin, Director of B9 Shipping, says: "The shipping sector is a highly complex, interconnected system and our task has been to develop relationships with key players across the industry. Having worked previously with WUMTIA, I believe this collaboration will enable a robust, commercially and technically viable solution to be ready for scale once the engineering is proven."

Kevin Forshaw, Industry Liaison for the newly formed Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI) at the University of Southampton, says: "Helping to develop viable means of propulsion for shipping in a post-carbon economy is a strategic objective for SMMI, and the B9 concept offers a viable alternative that we will be seeking to support at every opportunity.''

The testing programme, which begins in June, will undertake tow tank and wind tunnel research to identify a basic hull design and how it interacts with the dyna-rig system. It will examine various options in the performance parameters of a B9 Ship in scale model, calibrating the thrust from the sailing rig with various hull shapes to secure optimum performance efficiencies in a wide range of meteorological and sea conditions, whilst delivering against the essential commercial (loading and discharge; port constraints) aspects.

Engineering data will be used to assess and model more accurately various economic performance scenarios: for example varying the proportion of propulsion delivered by the wind/dyna-rig relative to that provided from liquid bio methane derived from waste by B9 Shipping's sister company, B9 Organic Energy.

This economic analysis will be undertaken later in the summer once towing tank and wind tunnel testing is complete and all data has been validated.

Diane says: "We are designing B9 Ships holistically as super-efficient new builds transferring technology from offshore yacht racing combined with the most advanced commercial naval architecture. We're combining proven technologies in a novel way to develop ‘ready-to-go' future-proof and 100 per cent fossil fuel free ships. This approach means financial investment and crucially, garnering support and furthering understanding with the shipping sector that there is a need for urgent change and through collaboration we can create viable commercially successful solutions."

Notes for editors

1. The Wolfson Unit is a division of Engineering Sciences at the University of Southampton. It operates a consultancy service in ship design, yacht design, small craft design, naval architecture, marine technology and industrial aerodynamics, providing tank testing, wind tunnel testing, consultancy, design software, onboard systems and innovative research to a world-wide customer base.

2. The Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI) will be a unique internationally recognised centre of excellence, bringing together a research, innovation and education community from universities, research institutes, industry and governments. The SMMI will eventually be located alongside Lloyd's Register and will form the initial stage of the development of the Centre of Excellence on the redeveloped Boldrewood Campus of the University, due for completion in 2014. This creation has resulted in an investment of about £120m in a new campus, the largest such business-focused endeavour in any UK university.

3. The University of Southampton is celebrating its 60th anniversary during 2012. 

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, granted the Royal Charter that enabled the University of Southampton to award its own degrees in the early weeks of her reign in 1952

In the six decades to follow, Southampton has risen to become one of the leading universities in the UK with a global reputation for innovation through academic excellence and world-leading research. 

This year, the University's reputation continues to grow with the recent awarding of a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in recognition of Southampton's long-standing expertise in performance sports engineering.

To find out more visit

4. The B9 Energy group of companies is the largest independent operator of windfarms across the UK and Ireland. It partners with leading utility companies to maximise the potential of their wind power assets, managing, operating and maintaining 48 wind farms comprising more than 700 turbines.

The company was founded by David and Norman Surplus in 1992 and operates from carbon neutral offices in Larne, Northern Ireland.

B9 has been a successful, sustainable business for 20 years and by giving equal consideration to people, planet and profit has experienced consistent, satisfying growth during that period. This business model sees profits recycled in to development projects driving renewable energy solutions.

B9 companies are developing technologies in offshore wind and tidal projects, in Anaerobic Digestion (AD) producing bio-methane from municipal waste and in energy storage.

B9 Shipping is part of the B9 Energy group of companies and draws on its experience in pioneering land based renewable energies to develop viable projects for the Maritime sector.

For further information contact:

Glenn Harris, Media Relations, University of Southampton, Tel: 023 8059 3212 email:

Diane Gilpin, B9 Shipping, Tel: 01380 812 657 or 07768 312 176; email:

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