Using a Kite to Tow An Ocean Cargo Vessel

The Voyage of the MS Beluga from Bremen to Guanta, Venezuela in late January marked the world's first use of the SkySails towing system to provide an assist in moving a cargo vessel. The ship was carrying the first of eight parts of a complete particleboard factory on behalf of DHL Global Forwarding. There are seven shipments to follow for completion of the factory in the South American country.

"The maiden voyage marks the beginning of practical testing during regular shipping operations of the SkySails-System," notes says Stephan Wrage, managing director of Hamburg-based SkySails GmbH & Co. "During the next few months we will finally be able to prove that our technology works in practice and significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions."

Estimates are that by using the towing kite system a ship's average annual fuel costs can be reduced by 10 to 35%, depending on the prevailing wind conditions. Under optimal wind conditions, SkySails estimates that fuel consumption can temporarily be cut by up to 50%.

Brand new, the MS Beluga SkySails was christened in December 2007. Beluga Shipping GmbH owns it. As the company explains, ship design is based on the simple principle that wind is cheaper than oil and, at sea, the most inexpensive and cleanest source of energy. The wind propulsion system features a towing kite measuring 320 square meters.

DHL is transporting the eight particleboard shipments to South America for its client, Dieffenbacher. The completed factory will to be used to create a government-sponsored housing project. Claus Kr├╝ger, DHL Global Forwarding director, says, "Besides offering our customers first-rate quality in ocean and airfreight transports, we are always mindful of the increased need for sustainable logistics solutions. The Beluga SkySails is a forward-looking example of how to implement low-emission ocean freight transports. The promising environmental aspects of the new SkySails System were a major factor in our decision for this charter."

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