The rebirth of sailing merchant ships? - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 12-18-2007
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The rebirth of sailing merchant ships?

This could be a fun discussion for the SailNet community.

A German company, SkySails, is marketing a huge kite to sail on large merchant ships to reduce fuel costs.

So will we be returning to 18th Century sailing merchant ships anytime soon? If the economics for a kite exist, I would think a modern sailplane design would be that much better since you could harness the wind on something other than a run or a broad reach.

http://www.skysails.info/index.php?L=1
http://www.reuters.com/article/inDep...071217?sp=true

(I tried posting a picture but it keeps saying 'Upload of the file failed,' even though it is smaller then the limits specified. If anyone can give me some hints, I'll try again.)
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Old 12-18-2007
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Very interesting story. I was wondering how fast would these ships move with the kite flying. At the very bottom of the article was this: ($1=.6881 Euro). Did the Euro crash ?
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Old 12-18-2007
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At a cost of $750K and daily savings of $1600, it would take 468 days at sea to pay it off. Assuming the ship is at sea 33% of the time (just a guess), it would take almost 4 years to break even. It may be time for a new kite before then.

I don't see it making economic sense now, but if (when) the price of fuel doubles or triples that could change.
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Old 12-18-2007
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Looks pretty cool but I just dont see ONE of thos kits doing all that much on a ship that weighs God only knows what, a crazy amount im sure.

Sailboats move easily because they are light and their hull is made to go through the water easily. But a cargo ship would not move easily at all I would think.

Anyways, the kites would have to be HUGE. I can only imagine a kite that costs 750K! wouldnt that be fun to hang on to. And to see one out in the ocean underway WOW would be a privilige.

What if the wind suddenly dies and your kite falls to water you start to winch it in and it fills up with so much water that it tears, "Stop the boat! Stop the boat!" A boat that large it is so hard to stop that it would ust keep going and rip it up and then plus if somehow it go into the prop! No, not going to go over well with the investor.

Just my thoughts
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Old 12-18-2007
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Knowing how much fun a Spi is to fly, launching and recovering a giant parafoil must be added enjoyment. I suppose "computer controlled" may handle the flying part, but getting it off and back on the deck and bagged must need a few hands.

Next idea.... Add a giant hot air balloon and fly the whole ship.
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Old 12-18-2007
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Umm... Yeah, right... sailboats, especially heavy displacement monohulls are certainly not light boats... and not designed to go through the water easily... Given how much wind it takes to get some of the heavier monohulls moving...you might want to re-think what you said.
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...Sailboats move easily because they are light and their hull is made to go through the water easily. But a cargo ship would not move easily at all I would think....
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Old 12-18-2007
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SD,

You are right they are not light but compared to a giant cargo ship are they not "lighter"? That is what I was trying to point out. Sailboat I would think are designed for "sailing" and not for "hauling". The main purpose of a cargo ship is to haul and thats how I would think all the hulls were disigned, for maximum stability when hauling heavy loads. When I would think sailboats are made to be more efficient in the wind and have a greater effect by the wind.

I think that for a cargo ship to benefit enough from a sail they have to design a new type that is made to be harnessed by a kite.

I hope you understand what I mean......... and that I do also.
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Old 12-18-2007
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Perithead-

Of course most sailboats are lighter...they're also much, much smaller... You're comparing apples to oranges... doesn't mean squat. The current cargo ships might benefit from a kite, provided the kite is large enough.. You really wouldn't want to redesign them much, since they're fairly well optimized to keep fuel use as efficient as possible...meaning that they have as little drag as possible...

Of course, kites as a propulsion device, only really work well downwind. There was a British idiot who tried to cross the north Atlantic using a kite powered boat, and had to get rescued because he had the snot beaten out of him and his boat by the remnants of four hurricanes....
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Old 12-18-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CapnHand View Post
At a cost of $750K and daily savings of $1600, it would take 468 days at sea to pay it off. Assuming the ship is at sea 33% of the time (just a guess), it would take almost 4 years to break even. It may be time for a new kite before then.

I don't see it making economic sense now, but if (when) the price of fuel doubles or triples that could change.
You're forgetting the value of marketing. What "green" retail outlet wouldn't like to jack its prices 20% by adding the sticker "Shipped by Wind-Assisted Container Ship".

The ship owners could likely charge a premium per container for freight, just as the tea clippers did for fast passages 150 years ago.
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Old 12-18-2007
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They had Barquentines(barkenteens) that were 5000 tons sailing between Europe and South America and other places. These were bulk carriers that sailed these routes. If there was a real return to sailing ships of smaller tonnages, which a 5000 ton ship is, It could be a viable enterprise. But the size of the crews would be 3 to 4 times larger then the crews of behemoths that ply the seas today. Also the scheduling of the theses ships would not be as accurate as an engined vessel either. But then would the savings in fuel more then make up the increase cost of labor on a sailing vessel?
There is one ultra large square rigged yacht out there. She could be used as a crewing standard for the modern sails that she has, we may then be able to really see if this is viable.

Last edited by Boasun; 12-18-2007 at 07:55 PM.
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