Cargill Ocean Transportation will soon have the largest kite-assisted ship in the world. SkySails has been engineering and producing these giant kites for ten years. The kite helps to catch the wind and pull the ship across the surface of the ocean.
The first ship to be aided by kite power, the MS Beluga SkySails, set sail in 2008. It measures 132 meters long and is a multipurpose, heavy-lift carrier. Cargill has now chosen a long-term charter ship of between 25,000 and 30,000 deadweight tonnes to utilize this technology in December. The kite for this ship will be 320 square meters.
The kite flies in a figure-eight pattern. These “dynamic flight maneuvers” allow it to capture 5 to 25 times as much power per square meter of sail area than traditional sails. Gizmag says not to worry; nobody has to hang onto this kite. A telescoping tower on the bow will use a winch to launch and retrieve the kite. The motion is also controlled automatically, with a display on the ship’s bridge. The display will show information on the system’s operation but need only minimal input from the crew.
Using a SkySails system may reduce a cargo vessel’s fuel consumption by between 10 and 35 percent each year. Temporarily, the savings can be as high as 50 percent. If this technology were to be applied globally, up to 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide might be saved each year, according to a study by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization.