It takes a lot of fuel to carry a (post/new) Panamax vessel across the ocean and the 3,001 to 14,500 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) of cargo they contain. Even though they might be more fuel efficient than air transport, and account for 90% of international trade, they’re still a very dirty mode of transportation. A single contain ship can emit more chemicals than 50 Million cars and the ocean shipping industry as a whole, which is mostly unregulated from a clean-air standpoint, emits 6,000 times the emissions of every single automobile on the planet. (Source)
That’s why I was thrilled to see this article over on Industry on how Cargill is Flying a Kite to Reduce Fuel Consumption. According to the article, Cargill is in the process of installing a 320 square meter computer-controlled kite on an ocean cargo ship that will function 100 to 420 meters above the ship and generate enough propulsion under ideal sailing conditions to reduce fuel consumption by 35%. Working with German-based SkySails, Cargill plans to have the kite based propulsion up and running by 2012. Given that Cargill alone transports more than 185 Million metric tons of cargo a year, this will have a significant impact on its carbon footprint.