Cargo Ship Completes Maiden Voyage Using Towing Kite

March 19, 2008

Photo of an oval parachute-like kite flying about a ship's length ahead of a large cargo ship, with a tow line running from the kite to the ship's bow.

The SkySails concept was tested on another Beluga ship before the launch of the "Beluga SkySails." Enlarge this image.

The two-month maiden voyage of the Beluga SkySails cargo ship was successfully completed in mid-March, providing proof that its kite towing system can cut fuel use by up to 20%. The first voyage focused on perfecting the automated kite deployment system, so the kite was deployed for as little as a few minutes and for as long as eight hours. When deployed in strong winds, the kite pulled the ship with a force equal to 20% of the engine power. The system is undergoing a 12-month pilot phase, and in the second half of that test period, the kite will be deployed for longer periods of time. Once the pilot phase is over, the 191-square-yard kite will be replaced with one twice its size, which is expected to save about 5 tons of fuel per day, for a daily operating savings of about $2,000. The owner of the ship, Beluga Shipping GmbH, is currently building two larger cargo ships that it plans to outfit with kites as large as 717 square yards. See the SkySails press release.