Dutch-based Econowind, a company that manufactures 16-metre aluminium ‘VentoFoil’ to enable ocean-going vessels to enhance their efficiency by harnessing the wind’s power, announced that it has bagged funding from the Investment and Development Agency for the Northern Netherlands (NOM) and Horizon Flevoland.
VentoFoil can be compared to a vertical aircraft wing that transforms wind into forward propulsion for the ship. These sails allow ship owners to achieve fuel savings of up to 30 per cent, promoting sustainability within the shipping sector.
Econowind managing director Frank Nieuwenhuis says that they had been developing these sails for five years and are currently encountering significant growth.
Advancing sustainability in ocean shipping
As environmental regulations for ocean-going vessels tighten, ship owners are eager to advance sustainability, especially in anticipation of the 2024 introduction of the CO2 tax. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set a target of achieving a 40 per cent reduction in CO₂ emissions for the shipping industry.
Econowind believes that the timing is ideal for the product, with sustainability being a top priority in the industry. Shipping companies actively pursue fuel efficiency, considering wind propulsion as a proven and fuel-independent solution.
The company notes that the payback period for existing ships is approximately five years. Using VentoFoil, ships can achieve up to a 30 per cent reduction in fuel consumption during voyages.
Over the past few years, Econowind has deployed and thoroughly examined 16 wings. It has been demonstrated to be reliable even in the demanding maritime environments. VentoFoil can be incorporated into both existing ships and newly constructed vessels.
Moreover, Econowind also claims it managed to reduce the production time of a 16-metre wing to just a few months, which is considered fast within the industry. The company stresses the importance of quick delivery due to customer demand, which results in a strong market confidence based on its order book.
Leading the global market
Econowind has been at the forefront of wind propulsion for ocean vessels since 2016. Its VentoFoil is tailored for the shortsea market. The manufacturer collaborates with the Bijlsma shipyard in Warten to construct a 30-metre-high steel VentoFoil. This technology is designed for large ocean-going vessels.
Nieuwenhuis explains that by 2027, they aim to produce at least one unit daily, with operations in Zeewolde, Warten, and an additional global location. He emphasises the market’s vastness, with over 50,000 active seagoing vessels.
“In addition, we are further automating the control systems. Now, the sails go up automatically, and when the wind is too strong, they fold in. The crew is not involved with operating the VentoFoil. And soon customers will be able to get even more efficiency out of the VentoFoil due to Artificial Intelligence,” says Nieuwenhuis.
“Information about the wind will be integrated into the models. We will convert the wind forecast into direct advice on the most optimal sailing route. That means deviating from the shortest route to go faster with the wind,” he adds.
What the investors says
NOM investment manager Allard ter Horst notes several reasons for NOM’s involvement.
“Making the maritime sector more innovative and sustainable is one of our spearheads. Production in Warten, Friesland, gets the north of the Netherlands really involved. Econowind already has contracts with shipyards and shipowners at home and abroad,” says ter Horst.
“With a mature team, the company makes products that are super interesting for the maritime future. We are happy to be part of that. Moreover, it leads to employment in the region. We welcome that,” he adds.
Inge Verschuur of Horizon Flevoland admires Econowind’s ambition and anticipates the company to rapidly grow.
“That is why Econowind fits into our Growth Fund. We are impressed by the team and by the other shareholders, who also provide expert advice. Innovation is a spearhead for us, of course, but we are also there to help achieve growth. In that respect, we think Econowind is an inspiring example, and we have high expectations,” says Verschuur.