Maersk ship with spinning sails installed.

Wind propulsion firm Norsepower announced that it has completed the installation of two of its Rotor Sails aboard the LR2 tanker Maersk Pelican. At 30 meters tall by five meters wide, they are the largest units that Norsepower has ever built.


Norsepower of Finland, Maersk Tankers, Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and Shell Shipping & Maritime are the project partners behind installing two Norsepower Rotor Sails on board the Maersk Tankers LR2 product tanker vessel.

These rotor sails take advantage of a physics quirk to push a boat forward. You might recall the Magnus Effect from demonstrations such as throwing a basketball with a lot of backspin from the top of a towering dam. Basically, a spinning object such as this creates a pressure imbalance, and lower pressure on one side of the rotor can help to propel a vessel.

It is expected that the rotors will produce a reduction in fuel cost and associated emissions on typical shipping routes of between 7 and 10%. If the system proves out during testing, Maersk could use the technology on dozens of ships in its 164-tanker fleet.

“This project is breaking ground in the product tanker industry. While the industry has gone through decades of technological development, the use of wind propulsion technology onboard a product tanker vessel could take us to a new playing field. This new technology has the potential to help the industry be more cost-competitive as it moves cargoes around the world for customers and to reduce the environmental impact,”

– Tommy Thomassen, Maersk Tankers’ chief technical officer.

This is the latest attempt – but not the first in modern times – to bring together modern oceangoing vessels with maritime’s oldest and most basic technology—sails that harness wind power. In the 1980s, French ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau commissioned the Alcyone, a vessel named after the daughter of the wind in Greek mythology, which used turbo-sails that provided thrust in the direction of travel along with the engines.

These rotor Sails are the world’s largest at 30 meters tall by 5 meters in diameter and are made using lightweight composite sandwich materials. They are the first to be Class approved for use on a product tanker vessel. Extensive measurement and evaluation of the effectiveness of the Rotor Sails will now take place.



This is the third application of Norsepower’s rotor sails onboard different vessel types, with smaller versions already in service. As well as product tankers, the technology is well suited for bulk cargo ships and roll on roll off (ro-ro) vessels.

Norsepower says the technology promises to be an effective way to reduce carbon emissions and one of the three vessels so far outfitted with the rotor sails actually saved 1,200 metric tons of carbon emissions on an annualized basis.

Since the industry is also bracing for possible new regulations on sulfur emissions, technology like this could gain increasing traction. Innovations such as Norsepower’s rotor sails could be an important solution to meeting those pressures in a volatile future. Perhaps we will once again see more sails on the high seas.