Wrapping up: In full sail

An eye-catching sustainability innovation for international shipping seems to be making waves. But we know what you’re thinking – what’s wrong with a little plainer sailing?

Late in 2022 French start-up Airseas tested their new Seawing system on the first open water trial.

The distinctive 2,700-square-foot parafoil soared 660 feet about the Atlantic Ocean, helping tow the Ville de Bordeaux below and, in the process, easing the workload of the diesel engines that powered it on the journey from France to the United States. Using the kite means less fuel burned and less emissions from the trip.

Now, at first glance this seems like needless modification of a truly classic design. Sailboats have been harnessing wind power since approximately 4000BC.

However, for the enormous cargo ships that need them, sails (and the masts needed for them) aren’t exactly practical. A kite is easier to install and, as it can reach greater heights, it can also access smoother wind easier. It’s not so much a case of reinventing the wheel – more putting a new spin on it.

Airseas estimates the system will eventually be able to reduce fuel consumption by an average of 20 percent. Considering the amount of cargo being transported around the globe, wider use of the system would make no small impact. Japanese shipowner K Line has ordered five Seawing systems, with plans to equip 46 additional vessels. These will join the dozens of large commercial vessels that now use wings, kites or rotor sails to help sustainably transport goods across the globe.

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Wrapping up: In full sail

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