Kite-powered cargo ship sets sail

The world’s first commercial cargo ship partially powered by a giant kite has set off on its maiden voyage to cross the Atlantic from Germany to Venezuela, the project, co-funded by the EU’s
LIFE Programme, is intended to cut the ship’s fuel consumption by employing an innovative wind propulsion system based on a large towing kite.

The German-built ‘MS Beluga Skysails’ is a 122 metre diesel-powered freighter equipped with a 160 square metre computer controlled kite flying 183 metres above its bows.

According to its designers, using the towing kite system could reduce a ship’s average annual fuel costs by 10% to 35%, depending on the prevailing wind conditions. By harnessing the full power
of the wind under optimal wind conditions, they also estimate that fuel consumption could be temporarily cut by up to 50%.

The ship departed on its maiden voyage from the northern German port of Bremerhaven for Guanta, Venezuela, on 22 January.

‘During the next few months we will finally be able to prove that our technology works in practice and significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions,’ says Stephan Wrage, from SkySails

The kite aboard the vessel is different from traditional sailing systems. Resembling a paraglider, it is shaped like an aircraft wing to enable it to take advantage of different wind

Its movements are controlled by a computer linked to the kite by a cable housed inside the towing rope holding it to the ship. The kite can reach speeds up to four times that of the prevailing

The company has already conducted more than 2,000 hours of tests on prototype kites and its maiden voyage will focus on the ability of the kite and its cables to withstand the elements out at

SkySails calculates that the use of its technology worldwide could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 150 million tonnes (about 0.6% of the entire global energy-related emissions of

‘Maritime shipping, with its output of over 1 billion tonnes of CO2 per year, is responsible for about 5% of worldwide CO2 emissions. Thanks to its broad applicability in the shipping sector,
the SkySails-System can make a major contribution to curbing climate change. The systematic and worldwide use of SkySails technology would make it possible to save over 150 million tons of CO2
a year,’ said Stephan Wrage.

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