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Air Cavity System

From the Times Online

An invention designed to leave huge container ships and tankers floating on air is poised to cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions at sea by 15 per cent.

Shipping is responsible for about 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year — a total that is growing rapidly — and some put the figure as high as 800 million tonnes.

Pumping a carpet of air almost 1m thick under the bulk of a vessel’s hull will cut the drag, or friction, from contact with the sea.

The Air Cavity System has been developed by Jørn Winkler, a helicopter pilot with a passion for boats, who dreamt up the idea while reading about hovercraft.

He realised that rather than using pumped air to lift vessels off the surface of the water, it would be easier simply to insert a layer of air between the sea and a ship.

His first plan was to develop more efficient jet skis and he built two prototypes in his spare time. But five years ago he realised that the concept should work with large ships.

Tests using models have shown how the system reduces drag and fuel consumption by 15 per cent and Mr Winkler is about to embark on sea trials with a 90-metre (295ft) tanker.

A section of the hull will be modified to make space for the air, with a built-in steel skirt stopping bubbles escaping to the surface.

The designers are also confident that the system could be modified for cruise ships and other vessels. More than

€19.3 million (£13 million) has been invested in the concept and Mr Winkler, who founded the DK Group to develop and sell the technology, expects the first order to be placed by the end of the year.

If successful, the system could help to reduce costs for the commercial shipping sector, which, in 2011, is set to be included within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Installing the system is estimated to add up to 3 per cent to the cost of building a vessel, but the designers are confident that the reduced fuel consumption that would follow would mean that the system would pay for itself within four years.

Christian Eyde Møller, the chief executive of the DK Group, which is based in the Netherlands, said that the technology demonstrated the shipping industry’s commitment to finding solutions to limit global warming’s impact.

Mr Winkler, the son of Hans-Günter Winkler, the German equestrian who won five Olympic gold medals over five different Games, said: “The big difference between this technology and hovercraft is we are not lifting the vessel, nor are we losing the air.”

Mr Winkler has had a lifelong fascination with boats, which began when he was a child in Denmark, where his mother built him a sailing boat.


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