The start-up bound4blue is helping shipowners reduce their pollutant emissions as well as reduce their fuel-related costs, aiming at shipping vessels in particular. The Spanish start-up has developed a patented foldable, wingsail solution that reduces toxic emissions which are related to maritime transport by an average of 30%. It does this by harnessing wind as a complementary form of propulsion. The system operates completely autonomously so that the boat does not require any extra crew members. It’s possible to utilize the device in boats where other less efficient solutions cannot be installed, and it increases the level of safety as well.
On top of that, offering a turnkey solution to both existing and newly built vessels will generate enough savings that it will pay for itself within five years, something that has never really been done before, according to bound4blue.
Innovation Origins discussed the start-up with COO and co-founder Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz:
What was the motivation behind the creation of bound4blue?
The company was founded by three aeronautical engineers. We saw that we could apply 21st-century aeronautical technology in order to solve one of the biggest problems in the maritime industry. We didn’t think about it twice – we just quit our jobs and founded the company.
What does the company have to contribute?
The shipping industry is in charge of transporting 90% of the world’s freight. Although being one of the most efficient modes of transportation of goods, ships have a direct impact on our planet and cause 14 million cases of childhood asthma and 60,000 cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths every year. Currently, fuel represents 50 to 60% of their operating expenses, and due to new regulations ship-owners and ship operators will have to switch to a cleaner yet twice as expensive fuel. So, as you can see, this new scenario presents an enormous challenge for the industry. Fortunately, it can be easily and immediately solved by burning less fuel, and that’s where bound4blue comes in.
Do you think that there are many start-ups tackling the same issue?
There are a lot of startups emerging now and building solutions for the maritime industry. Shipping has historically been slow to change and adopt new technologies, but there will definitely be a tech-driven upset in the near future, and when this happens, these maritime technologies (such as our wingsail system) will most definitely improve the world.
What makes bound4blue different from other similar startups? What makes it stand out from the pack?
Our system is the only available solution providing: 1) Fully foldable wingsails that ensure safety in rough weather, and at port or in daily operation. 2) More maneuverability thanks to the rotation capability which makes the system more efficient. 3) Autonomous operation, with no extra training necessary for the crew nor extra workload on them. Bound4blue’s wingsail is complementary to other power sources (such as electrically powered boats) and is suitable for a wide range of vessels: from fishing to large merchant vessels (both retrofitted and newly built). Thanks to its characteristics, the wingsail system fits more than 80% of the global fleet, meeting the case-by-case requirements of each customer so as to provide an optimized turnkey solution. This full adaptability enables the system to provide fuel consumption reductions (and consequent emissions reduction) of an average of 30%, which translates into a payback period of less than five years.
What has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome during the whole bound4blue process?
We know that the team will have to face more obstacles in the following years, but the biggest one to date has been taking existing technology in an advanced form and adapting it to merchant shipping requirements. It took us a lot of time to design foldable and rigid mechanisms which would strike an optimum balance between their price and the simplicity of the manufacturing process without compromising safety.
Was there a moment in where you thought of giving up?
There are always ups and downs in startups. There is a graph on the internet that always makes me laugh and which I feel that I can identify so much with. The entrepreneurship path is not linear, and there will be a lot of hurdles to face and overcome. In order to avoid getting to the point of thinking about giving up, it is necessary to celebrate your wins when they come so you will be able to withstand the issues and concerns that arise in due course.
What has been the most gratifying moment/ biggest accomplishment?
I would not be able to say just one, but there are definitely plenty that I would personally highlight. I remember the first investors who believed in us, the first prototypes we built that actually worked, when we signed a contract for our first installation, when I received an email from Forbes notifying me that I had been featured as one of the 30 brightest manufacturing and industry entrepreneurs under the age of 30 in Europe … I truly believe that there are a lot of exciting and gratifying moments still to come, like the first sea trials of our system, and I am really looking forward to it!
What can we expect from you in the coming year/years?
Bound4blue has the best team. The design, manufacture, and launch of scientific capsules into space, the construction of efficient wind towers, or the deployment of geodetic-quality ice drift buoys onto the Arctic Ocean, are some examples that preceded our team and that mark out a technological trajectory for bound4blue. We will continue working hard to deliver the best products for our customers. The first installations will take place this year: a 20 m wingsail on a fishing vessel, a second wingsail on a merchant vessel and a third installation on a bulk carrier.
What is your vision for the future?
Our vision is to power the world with the wind. The company is now working on a real-scale implementation on three vessels, and by 2025 we expect to execute more than 100 projects per year. In the long term, we will reshape the energy sector. At the same time during these past few years, we have also been working on a particular application of the wingsail system which produces hydrogen (energy) via the electrolysis of seawater, resulting in no pollutant emissions. All this at a lower cost compared to current production methods and with the ability to mobilize around the world in order to cover geographical demands.
Can you tell me a bit about the feedback you’ve gotten?
We are very surprised. We never expected that our system would be so well received from the very beginning. We have now three projects in the pipeline and more coming soon! And that with virtually no commercial effort.
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