Monday, December 17, 2007

Beluga builds first cargo vessel with innovative auxiliary propulsion system

“You have to have the courage to try out something new,” as Niels Stolberg, CEO of Beluga Shipping GmbH, comments the first application of the innovative SkySails towing kite propulsion system on a cargo vessel worldwide. This courage is based on the certainty that the SkySails system is the only sail system in the maritime shipping sector to date that can be used in commercial operation without any restrictions in vessel use.

The cross-sectoral relevance of this innovation in the field of propulsion technology at sea is also indicated by the social position of the ship’s godmother, Eva Luise Köhler, wife of the Federal German President. She will award the vessel her name, MV “Beluga SkySails”, during the christening ceremony at Überseebrücke in Hamburg on Saturday.

Of all known concepts for effective and sustainable alternative propulsion of merchant vessels, SkySails represents the only suitable model: no bothersome masts on deck, no restriction of stowage space, no hindrances to loading and discharging, no risk to the crew, cargo or ship as well as reliable overall performance.

Utilisation of wind energy by means of the towing kite makes it possible to provide relief to the main engine – 10 to 15 percent less bunker consumption is expected in the initial phase of operation. The MV “Beluga SkySails” is equipped with a kite measuring 160 square metres. Later, when the sail is scaled up to 320 square metres in the course of the coming year in order to increase efficiency on the high seas, potential savings of 20 to 30 percent are definitely feasible and realistic. Beluga Shipping GmbH initially reckons with a reduction in the existing bunker costs for the vessels diesel fuel within a low four-digit US dollar range per day of operation of the towing kite system.

In the case of two larger multi purpose heavy lift project carriers of the Beluga P1- series, which are to be equipped with SkySails systems in the near future, too, and are currently under construction, kites having a sail area of as much as 600 square metres will then be used. On this basis, fuel savings in the dimension of up to ten tons daily can be anticipated according to present-day estimates, corresponding to a reduction in ship voyage expenses of over 6,000 US dollars.

Application of the innovative auxiliary propulsion technology is a response to the constantly increasing oil prices, which have been climbing from one record high to another for some time now. According to world economic experts in the field, further price increases can be expected in the future and will have to be coped with in the course of the growing volume of world trade. The former threshold of 100 US dollars will soon be surpassed in all likelihood.

Application of the towing kite propulsion system points to a sustainable way out of direct dependence on the oil price. Furthermore, the MV “Beluga SkySails” even combines ecology and economy on the high seas. The carrier serves as an up-to-date link between economic efficiency and preservation protection of resources. The maritime sector numbers among the most important and most advanced branches of industry, especially in Germany. On the other hand, shipping contributes greatly to pollution of the environment worldwide. The first multipurpose heavy-lift project carrier to draw propulsion power from wind energy is almost revolutionary.

Even before her maiden voyage from Bremen to Venezuela with project cargo on board the MV “Beluga SkySails” opens a new chapter in shipping history. The new vessel will be practical proof that the hybrid propulsion system is possible on water and is able to achieve what many felt was absurd in this combination, i.e. reducing emission and at the same time lowering the voyage costs. The MV “Beluga SkySails” is the visible result of a pioneering spirit that creates innovations, promoting economy and ecology. You just have to have the courage to try out something new.

I met Niels a few times while posted in Europe, and upon my return to the USA. The dude is simply a visionary. To think he is going back to "original technology" to create an innovative, environmentally aware form of fuel conservation in the shipping business is no suprise. Wow, this is just great stuff.


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