Shipping can be a conservative industry, but even it needs some coaxing to return to wind power.

That’s where Gavin Allwright comes in.

He has been at it for almost a decade as secretary general of the International Windship Association, created in 2014 to convince the world that wind can be a viable alternative to the bunker fuels shipping has been using for more than a century.

Green Power: Driving the transition
This article is part of the Green Power edition of the TW+ magazine, which shines a spotlight on the leaders, innovators and advocates shaping a greener future for the maritime sector.

“With the first movers, we’ve got a lot of activity,” Allwright says. “A lot of shipping companies are increasingly convinced that they should be trying this, they should be putting some commercial ships out there, but at the ones and twos at the moment.”

For much of the windship association’s existence, it has been slow going for wind, with just 23 vessels built with wind propulsion technology on board between 2010 and 2022

In 2023, that number shot up to 24, with some installations likely slipping into early 2024.

The numbers may be small, but Allwright and the association have a handful of heavy-hitting allies on the owning side, with shipowners from Singapore to Japan to Greece and Norway making moves into wind.

“I don’t want to be unkind, but there’s been a lot of hype around alternative fuels. Not just hype, but a lot of movement there, as well,” Allwright says.

But he argues that those alternative fuels, like renewably sourced ammonia, methanol or hydrogen, are going to be expensive once they start hitting the market en masse.

The other front is regulatory. Here, Allwright lobbies the International Maritime Organization to adopt an energy-neutral policy around its decarbonisation regulations.

“We’re at the stage now where there’s serious delegates, the ones that are really switched on to developments in maritime, who now understand that wind propulsion is a tool in the decarbonisation toolbox,” he says.

He says the association has 180 members, who are doing their best on the lobbying front, as well.

“There’s a lot of support in reaching out to their national delegations right now,” he says.