Sails on Cargo Ships: Great Idea, But A Hard Sell

Given the rising costs of fuel, new versions of wind-assisted cargo ships have drawn interest from the shipping industry. However, companies are very hesitant to invest.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn


What's the Latest Development?

The cargo ship industry is looking at incorporating wind power -- yes, the very same wind power that their sailing predecessors used for thousands of years -- into their new ship designs. Several different prototypes have been presented, including a 3-mast ship designed by B9 Shipping of Northern Ireland, which was tested last month in England. Germany's SkySails technology has been in existence for several years, and is about to be added to a ship used by Cargill, the world's largest user of dry bulk cargo carriers. SkySails' primary product is basically a giant kite attached to a ship's bow that allows it to be "towed" by the wind when conditions are right.

What's the Big Idea?

Wind power is a better fit for smaller, slow-moving ships, which comprise an important one-fifth of all cargo ships. It's designed to supplement the ship's engine, thus helping to reduce the steep costs of using oil. At the same time, according to one vice-president, "The industry is quite conservative...There are a mix of significant technological, operational and economic hurdles to overcome." Shipping companies are especially reluctant to invest in any technology that doesn't guarantee a profit. 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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