Innovative “Sail” Reduces Costs & Emissions for Cargo Ships

airseas kite sail system installed on ville de bordeaux as a pilot for the innovative fuel cost and emssions reducing system

The 55,000 cargo ships and tankers that traverse the oceans daily burn fossil fuels with soaring costs both for the shipping companies’ bottom lines and ecologically for our planet Earth. Shipping across the oceans produces about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (a similar amount to airplanes). But, a French company, Airseas, founded by former Airbus engineers has an old but ingeniusly applied idea to harness the wind to reduce costs and sail towards saving the planet.

Yep, you read that right, cargo shipping will soon benefit from economical and ecological sails. The Airseas team designed a 10,000-square-foot parafoil kite system they named Seawing. The kite shape is similar to that used by NASA and SpaceX during landings.

How the airseas kite sail system works

The massive kite sail deploys at the touch of a button and helps propel large ships by pulling them across the sea under wind power. The entire system is computer-run from the bridge which makes Airseas much more innovative and viable for widespread commercial use than a predecessor product called SkySails that was tested in the 2012-2016 timeframe.

The revolutionary sail system won’t replace the ships’ engines but rather will reduce the thrust on the main propeller which will generate the cost and emissions savings.

Seawing could cut fuel expenses and carbon emissions by 20% or more.

airseas kite sail Pilot

ville de bordeaux is a cargo ship owned by louis dreyfus and chartered by airbus to haul components between europe and north america

And this is no future concept…the first cargo ship to use this sail system with automated flight control is crossing the Atlantic now in January 2022.

As a pilot program, a $30 million, 505-foot-long cargo ship, Ville de Bordeaux.

Ville de Bordeaux outfitted with the Seawing system left the French coast of Brittany on December 14, 2021.

Airbus has chartered the Louis Dreyfus-owned and operated ship to deliver aircraft components between Europe and North America for six months. Airbus was the first to purchase Seawing in September 2018. Once the product was fully developed, it required only 12 hours to install it on Ville de Bordeaux in late 2021.

Future of kite sails for large ships

Airseas has been piloting versions of the system since 2016. The current 5,400-square-foot kite is planned to shrink to half its size as the product develops. Plus, cargo ships are just the beginning as the system can be installed on any type of ship such as cruise liners. 

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