Cargill’s Green Shipping Idea: Go Fly a Kite

Cargill’s Green Shipping Idea: Go Fly a Kite

Food and agriculture giant Cargill has signed an agreement with SkySails GmbH & Co. KG (SkySails) to use wind power technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry. SkySails, based in Hamburg, Germany, has developed patented technology that uses a kite which flies ahead of a shipping vessel and generates enough propulsion to reduce consumption of bunker fuel by up to 35% in ideal sailing conditions.

In December 2011 Cargill plans to install a 3,444 square feet (320 square meters) kite on a handysize vessel of between 25,000 and 30,000 deadweight tonnes, which the company has on long-term charter, making it reportedly the largest vessel propelled by a kite in the world. Cargill and SkySails aim to have the system fully operational in the first quarter of 2012.

Cargill is currently helping SkySails develop and test the technology and has identified a ship-owner – supportive of environmental stewardship in the industry – with whom it will partner on the project.

The SkySails kite will be connected to the ship by rope and is computer-controlled by an automatic pod to maximize the wind benefits. The kite functions at a height of between 328 to 1,377 feet (100 to 420 meters) and flies in a figure of eight formation. The SkySails system is automated and requires only minimal action by the crew. An automatic control system steers the kite and adjusts its flight path. All information related to the system’s operation is displayed on the monitor of the SkySails’ workstation on the ship’s bridge.

“For some time, we have been searching for a project that can help drive environmental best practice within the shipping industry and see this as a meaningful first step,” says G.J. van den Akker, head of Cargill’s ocean transportation business. “The shipping industry currently supports 90% of the world’s international physical trade. In a world of finite resources, environmental stewardship makes good business sense. As one of the world’s largest charterers of dry bulk freight, we take this commitment extremely seriously.”

In addition to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the SkySails technology aims to significantly reduce fuel consumption and costs, van den Akker notes.

“We are excited that our technology will shortly be used on a handysize vessel for the first time and see great potential to incorporate it on larger ships in the future,” says Stephan Wrage, managing director of SkySails.

Cargill is a global transporter of agricultural, energy and industrial commodities. Although the company does not today own or operate ships, its ocean transportation business ships more than 185 million tonnes of commodities each year, in the process connecting supply from areas of surplus with demand in areas of deficit.

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