Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on January 23, 2008
Imagine a world in which we can harness the power of the wind to move cargo across the ocean. Um… wait a minute, didn’t that world exist up until just over 100 years ago? After a century’s hiatus, Skysails, a German start-up, is re-popularizing the wind for overseas transit.
And now that DHL Global Forwarding — the ocean and air freight carrier of the Deutsche Post World Net Group — has jumped on board, it’s official: the world of extreme sports has finally benefited the world of global commerce.
Bremen, Germany-based shipping company Beluga has purchased the first of these wind-fuel hybrid ships, the MS Beluga Skysails, and plans to showcase the new technology on a trans-Atlantic voyage this month. Here’s the gist: the Beluga is a typical-looking 160-meter cargo ship with a typical engine, but also includes an aerofoil attached to a 15 meter mast. This “sail” looks like a large paraglider or — like anyone who’s been to Hood River, Oregon can tell you — like giant kiteboard.
The sail uses both old and new technology to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 50%, meaning cheaper cost and less CO2. The old: harnessing the wind, offshore’s most abundant energy resource. Just ask the Phoenicians. The new: a high-tech, fully-automatic, computer-controlled adjustment system that doesn’t require a bunch of scalawags to operate.
Perhaps most important is that it crosses the economics vs. eco-nomics barrier. The sail is relatively inexpensive at about $725,000, and the savings could be as much as $1,600 per day right now. The savings will only grow as the price of fuel increases. Good for the pocket book and better for the environment.
Maybe someday ships will do away with the engine completely. Can I get one with a Jolly Roger on it?