October 6, 2008
MSC charters sail-assisted cargo ship
The 400-foot Beluga SkySails, the world's first cargo ship to use a SkySail, departed Newport, Wales, Oct. 5, 2008 following the first of three European port calls the ship will make loading U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force cargo for return to the United States.
The ship is under a Military Sealift Command charter.
MSC frequently charters U.S. and foreign-flagged commercial ships to move U.S. military supplies and equipment around the globe. However, chartering a modern, partially sail-powered cargo ship like Beluga Skysails is a first for DOD's ocean transportation agency.
The SkySail a giant, computer-controlled kite that can rise 100 yards into the air and uses wind power to help propel the ship during long ocean transits.
Developed by SkySails GmbH & Co. KG, Hamburg, Germany, the SkySails system has three main components: A towing kite with rope, a launch and recovery system, and a control system for automatic operation.
The has a shape comparable to that of a paraglider and can operate at altitudes between 100 and 300 m where stronger and more stable winds prevail.
Using dynamic flight maneuvers, e.g. a figure eight, SkySails generate two to three times more power per square meter sail area than conventional sails.
It is estimated that the SkySail can reduce fuel costs by 20 to 30 percent, or, roughly $1,600 per day.
While the fact that Beluga Skysails is partially wind-powered was not a factor in awarding the MSC's contract, the ship's operating company Beluga Shipping was likely "able to capitalize on fuel savings in order to make their offer more competitive," said MSC Contracting Officer Kenneth Allen.
"MSC values innovation that leads to cost savings," said Capt. Nick Holman, commander of Sealift Logistics Command Europe, MSC's area command for Europe and Africa. "We are proud to be collaborating with innovators in the commercial maritime world to provide our customers with efficient and quality service."
Beluga Skysails will make two additional stops in Europe to load cargo before delivering it to the United States.