Sails May Be The Answer

By: Jill Cordes
By: Jill Cordes

Large ships were once powered almost exclusively by the wind. Today, our super tankers, cargo and passenger ships consume tons of fossil fuel getting from port to port. But now they could get a little extra push from an old ally: the wind.

SkySails is putting giant sail kites on freight ships to help pull them across the ocean using wind power. An onboard computer controls the sails, helps find the best shipping routes, and even packs and unpacks the sails. The company says virtually all existing and cargo vessels could be fitted with the system.

Rising oil prices and new regulations aimed at reducing emissions have increased shipping costs.

According to the company, annual average fuel costs can be lowered by as much as a third, depending on wind conditions and the amount of time deployed. Under optimal wind conditions, fuel consumptions could be temporarily cut in half.

The US Navy is paying attention. Last year, it chartered its first kite-assisted ship to deliver Air Force and Army cargo from Europe to the US.


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