Green shipbuilders hark back to age of sail

SkySails on the MS BEAUFORT

German engineers have devised a way of tugging merchant vessels along with huge, computer steered kites, known as Skysails, that catch the ocean winds. It marks the beginning of a revolution in the way that ships are powered. The sails are calculated to be able to reduce fuel consumption by 30-50 per cent,depending on the wind conditions. The system could be applied to about 60000 vessels out of the 100000 listed in the Lloyd's register.

Orders are already coming in ranging from trawlers to a super-yacht. If the world fleet is equipped with sails, it is calculated that 142 million tones of CO2 could be saved per year!

The sails, made of an ultralight synthetic fibre,are shot up as much as 300m into the sky. They are linked to the ship by a single cordand and are steered by an automatic pilot. Acomputer console on the bridge feeds in data on wind strength and direction. A track running around the ship allows the kites to move and scoop up the wind from every direction.

It seems to be a good start to reduce CO2 emissions, since merchant ships produce more sulphur dioxide than all the cars and lorries on the planet. They also generate about 27% of the world's nitrogen oxide emissions. If this new method is improved within a short period of time, humanity will be one step closer to saving the world...

Image credit: Tidewater Muse. Image licensed under a

Creative-Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license.


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Guest Smmile_earthling

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This seems like a no brainer if it can reduce fuel consumption by even 30% . That is a huge amount of fuel and fuel cost have to make up a major portion of the cost of shipping. It certainly would not reduce the costs of shipping by that amount but 5 to 10% at least should be expected IF it reduces fuel consumption by 30%. More needs to be done making engines cleaner but this is a real good start because it have an incentive of saving money on fuel costs.

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Sails, plus modern meteorology, plus GPS, plus smaller, cleaner engines, plus Solar power, plus improved mapping of the world, and we may get shipping costs down incredibly, and to the shipper's advantage! but look for a very long adaptation curve, as the "Status Quo" has tremendous force against any change! This is why we are soon likely to benefit from a massive and very destructive World War, to smash the grip of the "Status Quo" and break into the Age of Aquarius, the fourth turning, the time beyond 2012, a new age for humanity!

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Guest Jason H.

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You could adapt the nuclear technology used by the Navies of the world to merchant shipping, nearly eliminating hydrocarbon fuel from the shipping industry. Then, while anchored in port the ships can plug into the grid and provide power. Of course, you would have to change some of the laws that prevent ships from defending themselves from pirates. We don't want a nuclear reactor to get hijacked.

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Guest Jason H.

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You could adapt the nuclear technology used by the Navies of the world to merchant shipping, nearly eliminating hydrocarbon fuel from the shipping industry. Then, while anchored in port the ships can plug into the grid and provide power. Of course, you would have to change some of the laws that prevent ships from defending themselves from pirates. We don't want a nuclear reactor to get hijacked.

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