German company Sky Sails, Beluga shipping line

Wind Power Returns to the Seas

By Joshua Hill—— Bio and Archives--January 7, 2008

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It’s been a hundred years or so since we’ve seen cargo ships propelled by the wind, making their deliveries across our oceans.


Thankfully, in this time of environmentally friendly business operations (or at least, some environmentally friendly business operations) the sales are being unfurled once again, to help minimize the amount of fuels consumed.

A new design from German company Sky Sails will see the 10,000-tonne Beluga Skysail deploy a massive kite once it reaches a safe distance from land. That kite is predicted to save some 10-15% off the heavy fuels it would normally burn.

Crossing from Bremen in Germany to Venezuela and back, the Beluga’s delivery is the first commercial test of this design, and could very well paint a picture of how it will look in the future. If it works, analysts predict that we could soon see many of the largest cargo ships being towed – at least partially – by these giant kites.

“This is a serious attempt to reduce bunker [fuel] costs and polluting emissions. The kite will be used whenever it is possible on the voyage, and we are convinced it will revolutionise cargo shipping. We would consider fitting them to all our ships,” said Christine Bornkessel, a spokeswoman for the Bremen-based Beluga shipping line, which has 52 merchant vessels.

The Beluga’s maiden voyage’s assistance will be provided by a 160-sq-metre kite, which as mentioned is expected to cut fuel consumption by 10-15%. However, in time, and depending on a successful first voyage, kites could increase in size and end up saving 30-35% on fuel usage. In fact, kites could grow to as big as 5000 sq meters and are theoretically able to tow large container ships.

The shipping industry has definitely not been a friend to the environment, using some of the most polluting fuels available, and doing little to diminish their environmental footprint. Thankfully, this first step towards a somewhat greener future is, at the very least, promising.

Joshua Hill, a Geek’s-Geek from Melbourne, Australia, Josh is an aspiring author with dreams of publishing his epic fantasy, currently in the works, sometime in the next 5 years. A techie, nerd, sci-fi nut and bookworm.


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