Container Ships To Use Kites To Save Fuel

Minnesota based Cargill has just signed an agreement with Skysails that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping business by using a giant kite. That’s right…a kite. Skysails, based in Hamburg, has developed a patented  system which uses a  kite to propel large shipping vessels across the sea. The wind-harnessing propulsion system, In theory, could end up reducing fuel consumption by an impressive 35%.

Here’s how it works: A monstrous 3,444 square foot kite is attached, via rope, to a control pod that electronically manipulates the kite to maximize potential wind benefits. The kite itself flies anywhere from 300 to 1300 feet in the air, whipping around in a figure 8 formation. Since the system is controlled electronically, it requires little attention from the crew. The computer system makes all the necessary adjustments to maximize available wind and relates telemetry back to a monitor located on the ship’s bridge.

Kite Ship

Image Via Skysails

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.

  • I can’t believe that works. What a great way to harness wind power.

  • Oliver

    I was wondering why the haven’t thought about this earlier. I’ll bet there would be a lot of creative ways to use recyclable materials to make the sail.

  • JDean24370


  • Great idea. I wonder how they take it down? How long does it take to stow it in case of storms?

  • Tom Winkle

    Paolo Bachagalupi”s “speculative fiction” has ships totally propelled this way… 🙂

  • sammijo

    We’re going back to sail boats?

  • silv

    Article is over two years old, how about and update?