“USA Broadening Conservation Focus to Weapons Systems” discussed a number of items, including April 2006 testimony from Ronald O’Rourke [PDF] of the Congressional Research Service, which looked at the rising cost of fuel and its implications for the US Navy. One of the most interesting possibilities discussed was the return of high-tech sailing ships, which used sails or even kites made of advanced materials in order to harness wind power as an assist to the engines, offsetting fuel costs.
That concept is no longer speculation – the US Navy’s Military Sealift command has just chartered one.
The 400-foot long MV Beluga SkySails departed Newport, Wales on Oct 5/08 after the first of 3 European port calls to load U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force cargo, before the ship’s month-long voyage to the United States. It’s the world’s first operational cargo ship to use a giant, computer-controlled sky sail that can rise 100 or more yards into the air, thanks to a novel technology from the German firm SkySails GmbH of Hamburg, Germany that adds efficiency, but prevents issues like ship heeling in strong winds.
The ship’s novel technology was not an explicit factor in the award, but the operating company estimates that the sky sail can reduce fuel costs by 20 – 30%, or roughly $1,600 per day. If so, that would be an important competitive edge when pricing the charter bid. MSC release | MarineLog.