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Icelandic North Sailing, in collaboration with the University of Iceland, has shown impressive results in improving fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by retrofitting modern propeller systems on historic sailing ships.

When overfishing, fishing quotas, and the transition to large-scale industrial fishing sent the characteristic Icelandic broad-hulled oak fishing cutter into oblivion in exchange for modern fishing vessels. An important part of Icelandic history and folk spirit was disappearing forever.

For the Sigurbjarnarsons, a family from Húsavík, this development was hard to watch, since fishing from oak boats had been the environment and culture surrounding the family and supporting them the better part of their life. At the time when the head of the family, Sigurbjörn Sörensson, former boat owner and skipper, retired, this tradition appeared to come to an end.

But the sons Hörður Sigurbjarnarson and Árni Sigurbjarnarson went their own way, and with the acquisition and renovation of the oak cutter Knörrinn in 1994, they founded the wildlife tour company North Sailing. Today the company remains in the family’s care with Hörðurs son, Heimir Harðarson, active in the board of directors.

Since 1995, North Sailing has offered whale watching trips in the scenic waters around Iceland. The fleet currently includes 11 unique historic wooden boats from Iceland, Denmark, and Germany.

Parallel with their desire to preserve the historic boats, it was important for the brothers from the start that their business should minimize their environmental footprint. Since the boats are typically between 50 and 100 years old, that goal can be a challenge, due to the vessels’ old and polluting engines. As a result, improved fuel utilization and propulsion have always been highly prioritized when time came for the boats to be renovated and prepared for use again.

By renovating the boats in North Sailing, a unique opportunity was presented to test different engine and fuel solutions that contribute to greener shipping.

Most recently, Heimir and his team have turned their attention to the vessels’ propeller systems to find the most optimal propulsion solution. When the team retrofitted the schooner Hildur’s old propeller with a new one from Danish Hundested Propeller, improvements were to be expected.

Before installing the propeller, Heimir contacted professor Rúnar Unnþórsson and Satish Kumar Bonthu from The Faculty of Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Iceland. They made plans for measuring and evaluating the improvement in performance and fuel consumption compared to the original propeller.

The study showed a consistent 30 percent reduction in fuel consumption and improved speed. CO2- emissions were also reduced by 30 per cent. The result was above and beyond expectations. Retrofitting propellers is not only a good financial investment for the boat owner but is also beneficial for the climate.

Systematic measurements were made at different speeds, logging fuel consumption, sailing speed, wind speed and other weather data. The results of this study show that the shipping and fishing industry can drastically reduce their fuel cost and carbon footprint with existing technology.

Ships Montly - January 2024

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