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December 18, 2007

Big Kites and Cargo Ships

Earlier this year Mausi wrote a about a new idea of saving fuel on cargo ships by simply fitting them with an additional sail. The sail looks rather like a big kite and is flown at heights up to 500 m. Provided the winds comes from behind the ship or from the sides it could help save a considerable amount of fuel.

After a number of preliminary tests with smaller ships in the Baltic Sea the first commercial cargo ship equipped with a huge kite was christened "MS Beluga Sky Sails" in Hamburg by the wife of the German Bundespräsident on December 15. The MS Beluga is 132 m (436 ft) long and its sailing area covers 160 square meters. In January 2008 she will embark on her maiden voyage, which will take her from Bremen in Germany to Venezuela. If all goes well the sail area will be doubled to 320 square meters. The ship owners hope to cut down fuel consumption by 30 to 35 per cent then.

More ambitious plan are already afoot. The Beluga shipping company has two bigger ships under construction at the moment. They will be fitted with sky sails as large as 600 square meters. If they work according to plan they will reduce the costs for shipping cargo by 6,000 US Dollars per ship and day!

All this wouldn't of course have been possible without the previous invention of new and durable materials which are used for the sail and the rope which fastened it to the ship. And the very advanced high tech computer system which is needed to trim the sail 300 to 500 m above the water surface. But what can be learnt is that it is still possible to make inventions in this high tech world. What Mausi finds a bit nerve-wracking about the ongoing global warming and fossil fuel conservation debate is the unwillingness of some to think along new lines. They've always used fossils fuels and they will do so until the end. Perhaps now is the time to be a little more creative.

Mausi, at least, will keep her fingers crossed that all goes well for the MS Beluga Sky Sails in January. It would be great to sails coming back to the oceans.

Posted by Mausi at December 18, 2007 11:26 AM

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