Compressed air could prove to be a valuable ‘lubricant’ for sailing vessels, providing them with a hovercraft-like cushion on which to float through the water with less resistance.

Air lubrication was the subject of a recent Lloyd’s List Aronnax column, and Craig Eason noted how the technology is gaining some big-name followers.

For instance, petroleum giants Shell reportedly sponsored the recent retrofit on a tanker’s under-hull air lubrication system, and Mr Eason adds that “such corporate sponsorship from a large oil major is not unheard of”.

The system works by blowing compressed air out of between one and two dozen cavities in the hull, creating a pocket beneath the boat measuring anywhere up to 2cm thick.

While the air compressors involved use about 2% of the ship’s power, the total net fuel savings are, at a conservative estimate, about 5%.

Mr Eason adds that the conservative percentage reported so far could actually be an underestimate – but that substantially higher claims would have been likely to meet with scepticism from those elsewhere in the industry.