There may be a very simple solution to the oil-guzzling problem on cargo ships that haul huge loads across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Wind power. A German company called SkySails believes that by attaching what are essentially giant parasails to cargo ships, they can reduce their use of oil by up to 35 percent.
The SkySails propulsion system can attach to pretty much any large ship, is computer controlled and deploys and retracts automatically. The company recently completed a major test, criss-crossing the Atlantic in a cargo ship called the MS Beluga using one of their "towing kites." The result: a 20 percent fuel savings. The system is shown in a computer rendering above, and can be seen in actual operation on their test vessel, the MS Beaufort:
An optional computerized system would allow ships to travel along a route optimized for wind power, and the SkySail is safer and more efficient than traditional masted sails, the company claims. Ships equipped with SkySails could put a big dent in the oil consumption and pollution created by the ever-growing container cargo industry. Photos by: SkySails.