Sails on ships aren’t anything new. Heck, we’ve been following this “new” technology on cargo ships since 2005. It’s time for our almost annual check-in on how modern ships are using an old tech solution to improve their efficiency. Here’s some additional context for you:
It’s been neat seeing this develop over the last 15 years! The hybrid model is working out well and more companies are embracing it.
At the most recognisable end of the wind-assist spectrum are innovations in soft sail systems. The increasing sophistication of automation and route optimisation systems have revived interest in seafaring’s original power source, and there are now a growing number of examples of larger vessels using smart soft sails alongside auxiliary propulsion systems. In one notable development, French naval architect VPLP recently unveiled a design for a 121 metre long roll-on/roll-off (RORO) vessel that will be used to transport components of the Ariane 6 rocket from Europe to Guiana. The ship’s main propulsion system (a dual fuel LNG MDO engine) will be assisted by four Oceanwings; fully automated wing-sails which are each supported by a 30m high mast and measuring a total of 363 square meters.
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%.
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.
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.
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.