The 12,000-ton hybrid

Meet the hybrid of the seas: A wind-powered containership

By Jeffrey Davis, Business 2.0 Magazine assistant managing editor

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- It's not just planes, trains, and automobiles switching to alternative energy sources. The world's 50,000 diesel-powered containerships -- which haul 90 percent of all goods -- are looking for ways to go green too.

This fall Germany's top shipping firm, Beluga, will launch its latest containership with a clean-tech twist: a giant kite that flies 1,000 feet above the bow, connected to an automated telescoping mast. Wind power won't displace the ship's giant diesel engines, but it will take a load off, slashing fuel consumption by as much as 30 percent.

The SkySails kite, named for the Hamburg-based startup that created it, is the first modern commercial application of an old concept. Japanese shippers experimented with wind-assisted vessels in the 1980s after a spike in oil prices.

But with today's fuel costs already sky-high and likely to keep rising, and carbon emissions from the shipping industry set to jump 75 percent by 2027, hybrid freighters may soon become a permanent fixture.

Stephan Wrage, SkySails's 33-year-old founder, says he's targeting cargo vessels, oil tankers, fish trawlers, and big yachts. Wrage hopes to add more commercial clients -- including the biggest yachts of all, passenger cruise ships -- if Beluga sails through its sea trials this summer without mishap.

SKYSAILS BY THE NUMBERS

SAIL AREA

1,100 SQ. FT.

ELEVATION

UP TO 1,000 FT.

MAXIMUM OUTPUT

4,000 HORSEPOWER

COST

$400,000-$800,000 PER VESSEL

FUEL SAVINGS

$1,200 PER DAY Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.