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Satellite technology helps commercial shipping industry reduce its carbon footprint

A UK company, partly supported by STFC’s business incubation programme, is developing ground-breaking technology that will help the shipping industry reduce its CO2 emissions and encourage the uptake of wind ships.

From the clothes we wear to the cars we drive, many of the items we take for granted every day have been shipped across the world. In fact 90% of everything we consume is moved by sea. The industry has recently committed to reducing its emissions by 50% by 2050 and is in need of commercially viable, zero emission technologies to help achieve this goal.

To help shipping rise to the greenhouse gasses challenge, UK company Smart Green Shipping Alliance (SGSA) is developing a 21st century wind power solution, FastRigs, based on America’s Cup wingsails. Wind power needs sophisticated analysis systems to enable a rapid uptake of this time-tested technology into modern shipping, and SGSA is developing cutting edge technology that will accurately calculate the available wind to any ship across any trade route at different speeds.

SGSA is the latest company to join the ESA Business Incubation Centre United Kingdom (ESA BIC UK) at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.  Here it is using meteorological and tracking satellite data to develop the prototype for its digital software system that will also provide projected annual fuel savings accrued by either retrofitting the technology into an existing ship, or by integrating it in to a new-build design.  The digital analysis system will also function as a design support tool that provides modelled information for naval architects developing new technologies and vessel designs to accelerate the use of wind assist solutions.

Diane Gilpin, CEO and Founder of Smart Green Shipping Alliance says: “Receipt of the ESA BIC UK support is of key strategic importance for SGSA’s longer-term goal to launch a 100% renewable powered autonomous ship in 2030. The SGSA has been pioneering the uptake of renewables in the maritime industry since 2014, identifying wind power as the first choice of exploration in the urgent need to reduce emissions from the sector. The development of our digital tool presents a new phase in our efforts to support ship owners assessing the commercial viability of installing wind-assist solutions on their ships.”

Managed and co-funded by STFC, the ESA BIC UK is a successful business incubation programme for start-ups who are using space and satellite technologies to develop new products or developing technologies for use in space. Companies that join the ESA BIC UK have a 92% success rate and benefit from £41,500 funding, access to IP, technologies and expertise generated by ESA research, as well as to STFC’s world class expertise and technical facilities, with dedicated business support.  The ESA BIC UK is supported by UKSA as part of the UK government’s contribution to ESA.

Dr Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC UK, said: “SGSA is an inspirational example of how satellite technology can be applied to address our environmental and industrial challenges. I’m thrilled to be able to support SGSA in the development of such pioneering technology and wish it every success as it takes its business to the next level.” 

Further information about the Smart Green Shipping Alliance.

Further information about the ESA BIC UK and support for businesses across STFC more generally, can be found at the STFC website.


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Last updated: 13 September 2019

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