Towing Kite Propulsion for Ships Outperforms Traditional Sails More than Five Times Over

Wessels shipping company orders three more SkySails-Systems

Hamburg / Haren/Ems, 3 July 2008.
The latest measurements made aboard the cargo ship MV “Michael A.“ demonstrate how the towing kite propulsion system of the Hamburg-based company SkySails delivers far more than five times the performance per square meter of sail than traditional wind propulsion systems. With the help of the wind, the 160 square meter kite generates up to 8 metric tons of tractive force this approximately corresponds to the power of an Airbus A318 turbine engine. Depending on wind conditions, ships in the future shall be able to post fuel savings of between 10% and 35% using this auxiliary propulsion system. “Our own measurements show that we were able to temporarily save far more than half the fuel by deploying SkySails in favorable wind conditions,” reports Gerd Wessels (37), managing partner of the Wessels shipping company based in Haren/Ems, adding that “alternatively we were able to increase the ships cruising speed from 10 to 11.6 knots with the help of this towing kite propulsion.” The innovative and environmentally sound wind-propulsion system retrofitted aboard the 90 meter long multipurpose cargo ship MV “Michael A.“ has been undergoing pilot testing in European waters since the end of 2007.

SkySails, the Hamburg-based maker of the system, was able to compute potential average annual savings based on the findings of the pilot testing and an evaluation of the log books of 13 identically constructed ships that were also underway in European maritime waters: even in this region which is known to have many areas of weak winds savings of more than 15% can be achieved. “Wind is always cheaper than oil and in the light of oil prices going up every day and new emissions regulations, more and more shipping companies are convinced of the performance capability of the SkySails propulsion,“ says SkySails inventor and company founder Stephan Wrage (35).
Even before the pilot testing phase on the MV “Michael A.“ has been completed, the Wessels shipping company has ordered additional SkySails-Systems for its next three new ships.
“For us, an investment in SkySails propulsion is not just an investment in protecting the climate, but also an investment in the future of maritime shipping that will help us remain globally competitive in the future,“ is how Gerd Wessels explains his decision.
Each of the shipping company new 88-meter, multipurpose sister ships with a deadweight capacity of some 3,700 metric tons and nearly 1,500 kW of power will be fitted with a 160 m² SkySails. With favorable wind conditions, a SkySails propulsion of this size can generate up to 8 tons of tractive power. For comparison: in order to reach a cruising speed of 11 knots, these ships require approx. 11 tons of thrust. All of the new vessels that the Wessels shipping company has ordered were financed through the Oltmann Group in Leer, which provided a major portion of SkySails seed money through private investors.

Pilot testing of the SkySails-System designed to perfect the SkySails technology will continue aboard the cargo ships MV “Michael A.“ (Wessels) and “ MV Beluga SkySails“ (Beluga Shipping) until early 2009. The practical operations of the two freighters initially focus on calibration work and technical modifications to stabilize the towing kite propulsion. The second half of the pilot phase will then concentrate on extending the flight times and optimizing the system's performance. SkySails will begin series production of the towing kite system once this pilot testing is completed.
Another result of the pilot testing so far was the addition of a sea-state compensator within the SkySails-System, which allows the towing kite to be launched even under difficult weather conditions. “After installing the sea-state compensator we can now deploy the SkySails-System more regularly than was the case at the start of the pilot testing phase and thus also extend the flight times,” says SkySails company founder Stephan Wrage.

Some 60,000 of the worldwide approximately 100,000 existing ships are suited for retrofitting with SkySails propulsion. With SkySails technology employed systematically throughout the world, it would be possible to save over 150 million tons of climate-damaging CO2 emissions every year.