Modern Shipping Uses Sails

The shipping industry recently agreed to care about the environment and this led the Guardian to examine how the industry will change. Here at Things Are Good we’ve been keeping an eye on old-school propulsion used on ships since 2005 and one difference now from over a decade ago is the efficiency of hybrid systems. Mixing solar, sails, and other kinds of enhancements with industrial shipping is being explored by all kinds of companies now. In another decade news that ships are more efficient than ever before will likely be standard news – stay tuned for 2028! In the meantime we can envisage what ships will look like and how they’ll reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping industry.

But much could be done more quickly by retrofitting existing ships with technology to cut their fuel use and hence emissions, according to the ITF. Here are just four:

  • Fitting ships’ bows with a bulbous extension below the water line reduces drag enough to cut emissions 2-7%;
  • A technique known as air lubrication, which pumps compressed air below the hull to create a carpet of bubbles, also reduces drag and can cut emissions by a further 3%;
  • Replacing one propeller with two rotating in opposite directions recovers slipstream energy and can make efficiency gains of 8-15%,
  • Cleaning the hull and painting it with a low-friction coating can deliver gains of up to 5%.

Read more.
Read more on the Viking rotor sail.

SkySails Signs a Deal

In 2007 we looked at SkySails when they were still in the startup phase of their company and today they have signed a large deal with Cargill, a large shipping company. Cargill will use SkySails starting later this year to save up to 30% of their fuel costs.

SkySails are a sails that attach to the front of the boat to help tow a boat along in open seas. The use of a rather large sail helps lower transportation costs while lowering the shipping industry’s impact on the environment.

Plans are in place next December to install one of these giant kites on a handysize vessel of between 25,000 and 30,000 deadweight tonnes, which the company has on long-term charter, making it the largest vessel propelled by a kite in the world. It is hoped to have this system fully operational in the first quarter of 2012.

G.J. van den Akker, head of Cargill’s ocean transportation business, said that “the shipping industry currently supports 90 percent of the world’s international physical trade. In a world of finite resources, environmental stewardship makes good business sense.” A recent United Nations study cited by Cargill says that up to 100 million tons of carbon dioxide could be saved every year by the broad application of the SkySails’ technology on the world merchant fleet.

Read some more here.

Wave Powered Boat Succeeds

We first looked at the wave-powered boat back in March, before Kenichi Horie set sail (or is that set wave?). Now he has become the first person to cross the Pacific in a wave-powered boat.

Weak waves and opposing ocean currents delayed his arrival, which was originally set for late May.

“When waves were weak, the boat slowed down. That’s the problem to be solved,” the adventurer told reporters Saturday from aboard his catamaran Suntory Mermaid II off the Kii Peninsula in western Japan.

The 9.5 metre (31-foot) boat is equipped with two special fins at the front which can move like a dolphin’s tail each time the vessel rises or falls with the rhythm of the waves.

Horie, who will turn 70 in September, reached his destination in the channel between the main Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku just before midnight (1500 GMT Friday) after covering some 7,000 kilometres (3,780 nautical miles) from Hawaii without a port call.

“The feeling is yet to sink in,” Horie added, according to the Jiji and Kyodo news agencies. “I want to go home as soon as possible and eat home-cooked meals.”

Horie first made world headlines in 1962 when, at the age of 23, he became the first person to sail solo across the Pacific.

SkySails Start Sailing to Save Fuel

skysailFootball field sized sails are finally hitting the waves, last year we mentioned SkySails initiative to sell their sails to large tanker fleets. December will see the first ship equipped with the extra-large sails head out on its maiden voyage.

The SkySails system consists of a towing kite with rope, a launch and recovery system and a control system for the whole operation. The control system acts like the autopitot systems on an aircraft, the company says. Autopilot software sends and receives data about the sail etc to make sure the sail is set at its optimal position.

The company also says it provides an optional weather routing system so that ships can sail into optimal wind conditions.The kites typically fly at about 1,000 feet above sea level, thereby tapping winds that can be almost 50% stronger than at the surface.

Old World Ways for New World Bays

boat I have to admit that whenever I read about “new” ideas that are really improved old ideas that we forgot in this modern age I can’t help but think there is a wealth of historical knowledge we have yet to improve upon. We are learning from the past and combining it with the future though! Take for example the ingenious idea of using a sail on a boat, or a “new” approach to gathering energy (wind). Indeed these new approaches do improve on the original idea and do so while being cheaper than the current finite resource-based approach to energy. They also tend to combine different sources of renewable energy.

A true triumphant of old world techniques like sailing and new technology is floating on the coast of Australia. A boat that has sails that also function as solar panels.

The concept is the brainchild of Robert Dane, an Australian doctor from the small fishing town of Ulladulla in New South Wales. A keen sailor and rower, Dane was watching a solar-powered boat race in Canberra in 1996 and noted that the winning boat used a solar panel inclined towards the sun. The only problem was that as the wind grew stronger the panel became a hazard and had to be pulled down.

“It intrigued me, and I started wondering how one could combine sun and wind to power a modern, seaworthy boat,” Dane says. “And then one day six months later, I woke up one morning and realized that I could use a wing sail that was at the same time a solar collector.

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