MV Beluga SkySails successfully completes maiden voyage

The ability of cargo ships to literally “sail” opens a new chapter in the history of commercial shipping, said Capt Lutz Heldt on his return from the nearly two-month maiden voyage of the multi-purpose heavy-lift project carrier, Beluga SkySails.


The vessel sailed from Germany to Venezuela, the US and Norway with power supplemented by a 160 m2 kite system, which, even in moderate winds, was able to substitute 20% of the engine’s power.

According to SkySails’ managing director Stephan Wrage, the trial voyage validated the company’s original expectations for the system. “In the future, depending on the route and weather conditions, we’ll be able to post fuel savings of between 10% and 35% using wind power,” said Wrage.

The Beluga SkySails left Bremen on January 22nd, arrived in Guanta (Venezuela) on February 5th, left for Davon (Mississippi) on February 9th and reached the Norwegian port of Mo-I-Rana on March 13th – after travelling a total of 11,952 nautical miles.

“The Beluga SkySails’ maiden voyage is proof in motion of a new kind of hybrid drive on the water that simultaneously reduces both voyage costs and climate-damaging emissions,” said Niels Stolberg, president & CEO of the Bremen-based project and heavy-lift cargo shipping company, Beluga Shipping.

On numerous days during the maiden voyage, the SkySails kite system was put in action for periods of between a few minutes and up to eight hours. During that time, the kite pulled the ship with up to 5 tons of power at force 5 winds, which, when compared to the engine output, represents a relief of more than 20%. Projected onto an entire day, this performance represents savings of about 2.5 tons of fuel and more than $1,000 a day.

After the pilot phase, the towing kite will be replaced by one twice the size of the first, to deliver double the amount of energy and halve fuel usage and emissions.

Beluga Shipping expects a drop in bunker costs of approximately $2,000 per operating day. The shipping company will give 20% of these savings directly to the crew as an incentive.

Kites with a sail surface of up to 600 m2 will be used on two larger Beluga P-Series carriers that are to be outfitted with SkySails’ systems in the future. Currently under construction, each vessel will have 20,000 tons deadweight and on-board cranes with a lifting capacity of 800 to 1,400 tons.

The WINTECC project
The goal of the WINTECC (WINd propulsion TEChnology for Cargo vessels) project, which is partly funded (€1.2 million) by the EU as part of its ‘LIFE’ program, is to measure the savings in energy and CO2 that can be achieved with the help of innovative propulsion technology.

“By co-funding this undertaking we want to set a clear signal for climate-relevant technologies of the future. And we are delighted that the SkySails technology offers such an enormous global potential for savings,” commented Paul Nemitz, deputy head of the European Commission’s Maritime Policy Task Force.

Also taking part in the undertaking are Lüneburg-based OceanWaveS, developer of the MaMoS II real-time wave monitoring system, and Hamburg-based ALDEBARAN, a cross-media agency specialising in the scientific, environmental and maritime fields. ALDEBARAN has been documenting the SkySails technology since 1992.

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