Dutch export credit agency (ECA) Atradius DSB has backed a €3.5mn investment loan from ABN Amro to help maritime business Econowind scale up its development of industrial sails.

Econowind, a Groningen-headquartered company, will use the loan to build up its lease portfolio of VentiFoils, which are foldable sails that can be mounted onto cargo ships either via a movable crane or on a fixed container to provide an alternative to fossil fuel-powered engines. Sails are either sold or leased to shipowners.

Initially the loan will support production rather than export, but Atradius is looking to see expanded exports over the long term and has put in place an insurance policy designed to cover the business as it increases production.

“By having an innovative insurance policy, we don’t require the export or trade to be immediate but as part of a future prognosis,” says an Atradius spokesperson, speaking to GTR.

“Indeed, as the Netherlands ECA we want to see export potential in the long term.”

The loan will support the production of at least 10 VentiFoils initially, with Atradius providing 80% cover. The business has plans to equip 6,000 ships globally with the technology.

The Econowind facility marks Atradius’ first issuance of green cover, a solution designed to encourage investment in green technologies or production capacity for green capital goods. According to Econowind, the sails generate energy 70% of the time during voyages and offer fuel savings of an average of 6% to 8% per year, which equates to around 1,000 litres per day per ship.

Maritime carbon emissions are responsible for 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with 20% coming from ships in the European Union. Last year, the European Commission announced plans to include the shipping industry in the Emissions Trading System (ETS), which requires certain sectors to acquire carbon allowances to cover their emissions.

The draft legislation stipulates that carbon dioxide emissions from the shipping sector are to be phased into the ETS from 2023, starting at 20% of verified emissions. Ships over 5,000 gross tonnes transporting passengers or cargo for commercial purposes will be affected.

The International Maritime Organization has also set out carbon dioxide reduction targets in its green strategy, aiming to reduce the total annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008 figures.