Accelerating Decarbonisation In Shipping: A No Regrets Approach Using Wind Power

Fitting sails could slash emissions from the shipping industry

This short technical policy paper from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers provides an introduction to the propulsion solutions available to shipping that will enable rapid decarbonisation. This includes the use of wind as the primary energy, hybrid wind and/or fossil/alternative fuels and the potential for biofuels, hydrogen and ammonia as drop-in replacements for bunker fuel. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers promotes a complete move away from using fossil fuels for use in transport or any part of our energy system in the future. In the interim however we must use solutions that provide the biggest and fastest reductions in emissions that affect our climate and air quality.


  • The UK Governments support the development of a ship demonstrator using retrofitted wind sails. This will allow ship owners and users to understand how renewable wind can be used as primary propulsion on modern ships and could provide a compelling exhibition at COP26.
  • The UK shipping industry and users work with government on creative funding sources to build a ‘2050 now’ ship that demonstrates how a fully autonomous fuel ship, that creates and manages its fuel could operate.
  • The International Maritime Organisation rethinks its recent low ambition announced in November 2020 to and seeks to aim for a substantial reduction closer to 70% to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement.
  • The UK Government actively creates funding schemes to invest in technologies that will specifically decarbonise shipping and meet the urgent need to reduce our emissions at sea.


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