The E-Ship 1: a Flettner ship

The E-Ship 1 is a RoLo (roll-on lift-off) cargo ship that made its first voyage with cargo in August 2010. The ship is owned by the third-largest wind turbine manufacturer, Germany’s Enercon GmbH. It is used to transport wind turbine components. The E-Ship 1 is a Flettner ship: four large rotorsails that rise from its deck are rotated via a mechanical linkage to the ship’s propellors. The sails, or Flettner rotors, aid the ship’s propulsion by means of the Magnus effect — the perpendicular force that is exerted on a spinning body moving through a fluid stream.

The E-Ship 1 is equipped with nine Mitsubishi marine diesel engines with a total output of 3.5 MW. The ship’s exhaust gas boilers are connected to a Siemens downstream steam turbine, which in turn drives four Enercon-developed Flettner rotors. These rotors, resembling four large cylinders mounted on the ship’s deck, are 27 meters tall and 4 meters in diameter.

The E-Ship 1

The launch of the world’s first rotor ship, the BUCKAU, on 7 November 1924 in Kiel caused quite a splash. Never before had the world seen such a vessel, with its two silently rotating columns rising tall from the deck. The new fuel-saving auxiliary propulsion system was named after its inventor Anton Flettner (1885–1961), a trained mathematics teacher and self-taught engineer. The Flettner rotor deflects the wind to one side, using the resulting forces to propel the ship forward in a similar way to a sail.

First Rotor-Ship, the “Buckau”

The Flettner rotor was based on a much earlier breakthrough made in 1851 in Berlin. The physicist Heinrich Gustav Magnus (1802–1870) discovered a hitherto unknown force that arises when air flows over a rotating body. This came to be known as the Magnus effect.

The Magnus Force