© Maarten Kal/Fairtransport.eu, ship: "Tres Hombres"

With sails and without engines - the cargo ships of the future

Why use polluting and expensive fuels when you can count on energy from the wind, the currents and sunlight to power merchant ships?

Could sailing ships be the future of freight transportation? Yes, is the slightly crazy bet of three rather pirate-like Dutch friends. Since 2009, Arjen, Andreas and Jorne have been sailing between America and Europe aboard the Tres Hombres. This beautiful two-masted sailing ship, which they entirely renovated, is the only cargo vessel in operation that is engineless and uses only wind energy. It looks like something out of a naval museum, but regularly carries 35 tons of freight – from chocolate to rum - in its hold. The three men started their own maritime freight company, known as Fairtransport, and to expand their "green" fleet they are planning to build the least polluting cargo ship in the world.

Fairtransport has partnered with Dykstra, a firm of naval architects from Amsterdam, to design the Ecoliner - a hybrid cargo vessel with four giant automated sails and an engine that provides energy when there isn’t enough wind. Capable of carrying 800 tons of freight at the same speed as a conventional ship, it will use 50-90% less fuel.

The Ecoliner is still at the funding stage, but elsewhere in the world engineers are working on other types of innovative vessels such as the Triple-E, which took to the water a year ago. With four powerful propellers that reduce friction, this huge container vessel (400 meters long) uses less fuel than a conventional cargo ship and produces 20% less CO2. It's a start, but there is still a long way to go and no shortage of ideas: some prototypes are covered with solar panels, others use the hull like a sail or are harnessed to kites.

1 billion tons of CO2 emissions produced every year

Although ships with engines produce less greenhouse gas emissions per kilometer than planes, trains or trucks, the distances they travel and the amounts they carry are much greater: 90% of goods are shipped by sea. Consequently, according to the International Maritime Organization, maritime freight produces the equivalent of one billion tons of CO2 every year, and the number could double or triple by 2050. Without counting other damage it causes such as ballast discharge and noise pollution.

Copyright : Story Collective

For more information:

- The rise of eco-friendly cargo ships (video)
- The TED talk given by Andreas Lackner
- Nordlys is 141 years old and will be soon the oldest, still trading, sailing cargo vessel in the world!
- The Fairtransport website


Main picture: © Maarten Kal/Fairtransport.eu, ship: "Tres Hombres"

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