US Navy First: Moving Cargo By Kite-Powered Ship

MV Beluga Skysails Ship Being Pulled by a Kite High in the Sky photo

image source: SkySails

In January of this year, the 132 meter (400 foot) Multi Purpose Heavy Lift Carrier MV Beluga SkySails set off on its maiden kite-powered trans-atlantic journey. Tugged along by 160 m2 of kite hovering 100 m (100 yards) over the ship's bow, the SkySails ship successfully completed its voyage in March. Now the MV Beluga SkySails is bound for the new world again: this time with U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force cargo loaded at three European ports. But is the military motivated by green, greenbacks or greenwashing?The MV Beluga SkySails has been chartered by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC). Use of the computer-controlled kite to assist the ship's diesel engines is expected to save 20-30% on fuel costs (or $1600 per day) over the course of the month-long transport. The MSC frequently charters commercial ships, but the October 2008 transport with a kite-powered ship is a first for the US Military.

Navy Motivated by Greenbacks not Green Acts
At Today in the Military, MSC contracting officer Kenneth Allen is attributed with claiming that the contract was awarded based on competitive bids and not due to the Beluga SkySail's wind-powered ecotechnology.

In the same article, Navy Capt. Nick Holman, commander of Sealift Logistics Command Europe, MSC's area command for Europe and Africa, also emphasizes the prioritization of cost: "MSC values innovation that leads to cost savings. We are proud to be collaborating with innovators in the commercial maritime world to provide our customers with efficient and quality service."

Hook 'em with Efficient, Land Eco-efficiency
Or are they wisely defensive because it would truly look like greenwashing for the Navy to claim ecological motivations? Or perhaps too shy to mess with the dipomatic complications of that small thrill which runs up their spines at the thought of coming closer to energy independence? Or even fearful that confessing the joy of once again plying the seas under canvas might carry a hint too much "Captain and Commander" about it?

At any rate, this certainly underlines a point that TreeHugger has often defended. Better design proves itself by bringing people over to green without playing on green intentions. And MV Beluga SkySails has entered the realm of competitive technologies in the transport sector. Welcome to the game, SkySails!

Thanks to tipster JT!

More on SkySails
Videos of Beluga Skysails Kite-Powered Cargo Ship
Cargo Ship with Kites: First Trans-Atlantic Trip a Success!
First Transatlantic Voyage of Kite-powered Ship
Go Fly a Kite (and Sail a Ship)
Beluga Group Signs Contract for Sky Sail Power
Sky Sails Promise Wind Energy for Fuel Reduction

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