Development of a scientific-technological platform for the preparation of the market penetration of Flettner rotors on different types of vessels as a contribution to lower-emission shipping

Funding: German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK)
Total funding: EUR 5,175,561.41
Partners: MARIKO Maritimes Kompetenzzentrum Leer gemeinnützige GmbH (project coordination), Fraunhofer IWES, abh Ingenieur-Technik GmbH, Bureau Veritas Holding GmbH, Dirks Elektrotechnik GmbH, Hamburgische Schiffbau-Versuchsanstalt GmbH, HB Hunte Engineering GmbH, University of Applied Sciences Emden/Leer, IBK-fibertec GmbH, Lais Design & Development
Associated partners Eco Flettner GmbH, ENERCON Logistic GmbH, Fehn Ship Management GmbH & Co. KG, ISSIMS GmbH, Krey Schiffahrts GmbH & Co. KG, NSB Niederelbe Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, Winterthur Gas & Diesel Ltd.
Term: 01/2023 – 12/2025


  • Given the climate protection targets currently being pursued around the world, the shipping industry needs to reduce its emissions too. Wind hybrid propulsion systems such as the Flettner rotor represent an effective option.
  • The FlettnerFLEET research project aims to develop this technology further for widespread use on different types of vessels via standardization and digitalization among other things.
  • Fraunhofer IWES is developing a digital twin of the entire rotor vessel system in a subproject in order to analyze the influences of control and vibrations and to provide data for the optimization of the overall control system.

The shipping industry is under great pressure to reduce CO2 emissions. For example, emissions from vessels arriving at and leaving the ports in the EU were recently included in the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), meaning that shipping companies have had to purchase corresponding emissions allowances since January 2023.

One option for effectively reducing emissions is to employ wind power as a supplementary propulsion force. Compared with conventional sails, Flettner rotors offer the advantage of good controllability among other things. However, they have been unable to establish themselves on the market so far, partly due to the fact that there were no performance data freely available.

The FlettnerFLEET joint project aims to close this gap and further develop Flettner technology in Germany for widespread use in both national and international shipping in order to contribute to climate protection in shipping with this wind hybrid propulsion system. Another goal of the joint project is the standardization and digitalization of individual process steps in the development of a rotor vessel. Shipping companies can then utilize this basis to make sound investment decisions.

Fraunhofer IWES’ objective in the FlettnerTwin subproject is the further development of the rotor control and vibration optimization. These key factors influencing the performance of the entire rotor vessel system will be analyzed with the help of a to be developed visualization as a digital twin. In addition, tests in the real lab will return important optimization parameters which can then be integrated into the overall control system.

The scientists are expanding on existing systems and experience and linking them to the results of the modeling and extended measuring campaigns. By doing so, they will enable optimized operation of the rotor vessel and its main propulsion system. In the future, this work is intended to serve as preparation for the development of an overall control system for rotor vessels in connection with a digital twin.

More information on the project website: https://www.flettnerfleet.com/