The wind-powered ship industry has reached a significant new stage in its development with the first connections made to Guadeloupe by the cargo ship Canopée. Developed by the company Zéphyr & Borée, the ship will carry the future launcher of the Ariane 6 rocket. With Nils Joyeux, president and co-founder of Windcoop and Zéphyr & Borée, we took stock of the progress made in this sector, following these first crossings carried out after the 2022 holidays.
Canopée, the first sailing cargo ship in the wine industry
121m long. 10,000 tons. These figures give you an idea of the technological feat achieved by the teams from Zéphyr & Borée and the VPLP design office in designing the Canopée, the first sailing cargo ship to take to the sea. The vessel, which will carry the launcher for the next Ariane 6 rocket, made its first voyage to French Guiana. The ship was delivered at the end of 2022. Its loading was done on December 31. The ship set sail on January 1 for its first round trip to French Guiana on a mission for ArianeGroup.
However, this first transatlantic link was made without the sails intended to propel the Canopée. Still in the assembly and calibration phase, they will be delivered in the first quarter of 2023. Developed by the company Ayro Oceanwing and with a surface area of 363m² each, they will carry this ro-ro vessel at a speed of 17 knots. Depending on the speed of the voyage, its wind propulsion will result in a reduction of CO2 emissions by about a third.
Wind propulsion, from utopia to reality
This first Europe-Guyana link of the Canopée is a significant step for the development of the wind-powered ship industry. “About five years ago, talking about transport by sail seemed rather utopian. Today, we are no longer in a utopian world, but in the realization of projects,” says Nils Joyeux, co-founder and president of Windcoop and Zéphyr & Borée. “The Canopée has been delivered, Grain de Sail’s second vessel is under construction, TOWT’s vessels are under construction and Neoline has announced the construction of vessels.”
A multiplicity of projects that testifies to a growing awareness among maritime players of the advantages of velelic propulsion, both from an ecological and economic standpoint. “It is clear to everyone that the use of wind and sail will be inevitable for maritime transport. Initially, installing sails on ships of this size was an ecological or militant aspect. Today, economically, it is becoming profitable. I am fully convinced that within 5 or 10 years, there will be many projects of sail-powered ships. It’s a fascinating beginning to the energy and technology transition.”
And of this train of transitions through wind power, France seems to be the locomotive. “There are projects in Europe, but 80% of them are concentrated in France. It is the leader on the subject of wind propulsion.” A figurehead status that could prove advantageous for years to come. “The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is tightening its regulations. All cargo ships will have to green their propulsion. Solutions exist, such as synthetic hydrogen fuels, but they are expensive. I am convinced that everyone will have to turn to sails because it will be extremely profitable. The market for wind propulsion will explode. I would like to see political awareness so that this sector is supported as much as possible. With its leadership, France has a shot to play in the coming years.”
The air of Brittany, favorable to recruitment
To assume this role, France can rely on Brittany and its environment conducive to the development of maritime industries. This is particularly true for wind propulsion, for which a study conducted by BDI revealed the existence of a Breton industry. “This region has an ecosystem and expertise that are valuable for the sailing and maritime fields.”
In addition to this buoyant environment for these sectors, Brittany enjoys a high level of popularity among working people who are attracted by a change of scenery. Zéphyr Borée hopes to be able to rely on the Breton setting to continue its growth in Lorient by recruiting about 30 people over the next two years. “Being in Brittany and especially in Lorient makes life easier for us in terms of recruitment. It’s almost easier to recruit in Lorient and the surrounding area than in Paris, Marseille or Lyon. It’s a really attractive place. The idea of moving to Lorient or Brittany helps with recruitment.”
Zephyr & Borée sets its sights on the shippers’ coalition
Zephyr & Borée will be able to rely on these future employees to carry out the future projects on which the company is positioned. In particular, the coalition of shippers. This group of 11 companies, including Ikea, Michelin, L’Occitane and Hennessy, was formed to decarbonize its transportation. In the summer of 2022, Zephyr & Boreas won the call for projects launched by this consortium. Its objective is to set up “two transatlantic container lines between France, Belgium and the United States” by 2025.