Will ‘kite ship’ encourage new cargo sail era?

April 16, 2008

A new era of wind-powered cargo ships could be about to begin, following an apparently successful trial of a German ship sailing from Bremen to Venezuela.

[mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]As Bulletin reported in February, the Beluga SkySails set sail with a 160m2 towing kite. Now the motor vessel has completed its maiden voyage, and the promoters of the scheme say it has cut 20% of the engine power by having the sail.

‘We can actually now “sail” with cargo ships, said the ship’s captain Lutz Heldt, ‘thus opening a new chapter in the history of commercial shipping.’ The president of the Beluga Shipping company said the motor:sail hybrid reduces both voyage costs and climate-changing emissions.

The kite-like sail was used for periods of between five minutes and eight hours. It pulled the ship with up to five tonnes of power at force-5 winds, thereby relieving the engine of 20% of its output. Projected onto a full day, this represents savings of about 2.5 tonnes of fuel and more than $1000 a day.

Beluga Shipping are hopeful of replacing the kite with one twice the size, delivering twice the energy, and saving twice as much fuel and emissions. It is also experimenting with a sail surface of up to 600m2.

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