Sails make a come­back as ship­ping tries to go green


LONDON, Dec 6, (AP): As the ship­ping in­dus­try faces pres­sure to cut cli­mate-al­ter­ing green­house gases, one an­swer is blow­ing in the wind.

Euro­pean and US tech com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing one backed by air­plane maker Air­bus, are pitch­ing fu­tur­is­tic sails to help cargo ships har­ness the free and end­less sup­ply of wind power. While they some­times don’t even look like sails - some are shaped like spin­ning col­umns - they rep­re­sent a cheap and re­li­able way to re­duce CO2 emis­sions for an in­dus­try that de­pends on a par­tic­u­larly dirty form of fos­sil fu­els.

“It’s an old tech­nol­ogy,” said Tuo­mas Riski, the CEO of Fin­land’s Norse­power, which added its “ro­tor sail” tech­nol­ogy for the first time to a tanker in Au­gust. “Our vi­sion is that sails are com­ing back to the seas.”

Den­mark’s Maersk Tankers is us­ing its Maersk Pel­i­can oil tanker to test Norse­power’s 30 me­ter (98 foot) deck-mounted spin­ning col­umns, which con­vert wind into thrust based on an idea first floated nearly a cen­tury ago.

Sep­a­rately, A.P. Moller-Maersk, which shares the same owner and is the world’s big­gest con­tainer ship­ping com­pany, pledged this week to cut car­bon emis­sions to zero by 2050, which will re­quire de­vel­op­ing com­mer­cially vi­able car­bon neu­tral ves­sels by the end of next decade.

The ship­ping sec­tor’s in­ter­est in “sail tech” and other ideas took on greater ur­gency after the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion, the UN’s mar­itime agency, reached an agree­ment in April to slash emis­sions by 50 per­cent by 2050.

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