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Energy Efficiency Tall Ships

Published on July 25th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

75

Wind-Powered Tall Ships Are Once Again Important As Oil Prices Hurt Trade

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July 25th, 2008 by
 
Tall Ships

Sometimes it takes an energy crisis to make us realize the value of old technology. As oil prices soar, tall wind-powered ships are looking like an increasingly viable alternative.

The first commercial cargo of French wine to be transported by sailboat in the modern era is due to arrive in Dublin this week after a six-day trip. The 108 year-old British boat, chartered by French shipping company Compagnie de Transport Maritime a la Voile (CMTV), is carrying 30,000 bottles of wine.

Though the ship travels at a top speed of eight knots— half the speed of a modern cargo vessel—it is completely pollution-free. The 50,000 other merchant ships traveling the world emit 800 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

The Kathleen & May spent most of its life transporting coal and clay. It was taken out of commercial service in 1960. Now it’s once again hard at work, as CMTV has contracted for 80 vineyard owners from southern France to carry their wine bottles to Ireland on the ship. The company is also working on another deal to bring Irish whiskey and scotch to France using the boat, and it eventually plans on building its own tall ships for transport.

CMTV may be on to something; according to the French Association of Shipowners, wind-powered boats could capture .5% of the commercial shipping market. This may not sound like much—until you consider that 90% of the world’s traded goods are transported via boat.

Tall ships may move a bit slower than fossil-fuel powered ships, but their minimal environmental impact could make them sea trade’s best hope for the future.

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



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  • spinsail

    Kites have the limitation of not being able to sail close to the wind direction. Square riggers , while being very romantic looking take a lot of handling and again are not close winded, Fore and aft rigs are the closed to an all round rig but the best by far is a Flettner rotor which can sail at 25 degrees to the apparent wind and provid 10 times the thrust that a fabric sail can produce for its area. These sails are powered by small electric motors which are run from solar pannels. It sounds odd to have a “powered sail” but these sails have been proven for almost 100 years and are about to make a big entry into shipping as we know it.

    Check out http://www.Magnuss.com

    Fully automated , so no additional crew savings of 1000s of tons of CO2 NOX and SOX per year not to mention the knock on effect to the price of goods getting to their desitnation at a fraction of the cost !
    This can not fail.

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  • stephen young

    look up the sailing ship kwai that is running commercial trips in the south pacific kind of a hybid but still a step in the green direction

  • stephen young

    look up the sailing ship kwai that is running commercial trips in the south pacific kind of a hybid but still a step in the green direction

  • Stefan Kran

    Sailing ships are not completely pollution free. They must be built, painted, maintained, repaired by people and tools that generate pollution in their manufacture and/or use.

  • Stefan Kran

    Sailing ships are not completely pollution free. They must be built, painted, maintained, repaired by people and tools that generate pollution in their manufacture and/or use.

  • http://www.portergroup.myffi.biz Reed Daniels

    Ssiling does require less of a crew now, but still people have to eat whether at sea or on land. That was a foolish shot. Note that pollution only shows up in Cities where it is concentrated, (lots of cars) and less trees. Answer: Plant more trees in the cities. Trees handle Pollution. Note: none, or minimal pollution in outlying areas of the country. I won’t live in a town with more than one stop light. Too much polluting while doing a useless activity. Why do you think that wealthier towns pride themselves in lots of them. Note: The problems Mr. T ran into when he tried to clear his own land. Sailing crew and cost can be fun and limited by taking on volunteers for the lesser experience jobs. People would come on and do this just for the experience of it. The Bounty takes on Volunteers for differing periods of time. Oh, and Global Warming; ain’t happening. Don’t fall for it.

  • http://www.portergroup.myffi.biz Reed Daniels

    Ssiling does require less of a crew now, but still people have to eat whether at sea or on land. That was a foolish shot. Note that pollution only shows up in Cities where it is concentrated, (lots of cars) and less trees. Answer: Plant more trees in the cities. Trees handle Pollution. Note: none, or minimal pollution in outlying areas of the country. I won’t live in a town with more than one stop light. Too much polluting while doing a useless activity. Why do you think that wealthier towns pride themselves in lots of them. Note: The problems Mr. T ran into when he tried to clear his own land. Sailing crew and cost can be fun and limited by taking on volunteers for the lesser experience jobs. People would come on and do this just for the experience of it. The Bounty takes on Volunteers for differing periods of time. Oh, and Global Warming; ain’t happening. Don’t fall for it.

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  • http://bootslack.wordpress.com James D. Newman

    I think that the range and power of alternative technology are damaged by being over-hyped. People read a couple of statistics and suddenly are experts.

    The fact of the tall ship being in service is fascinating — I would have liked to learn more about it. The speculation on carbon footprint impact is pure garbage and spoils the article.

  • http://bootslack.wordpress.com James D. Newman

    I think that the range and power of alternative technology are damaged by being over-hyped. People read a couple of statistics and suddenly are experts.

    The fact of the tall ship being in service is fascinating — I would have liked to learn more about it. The speculation on carbon footprint impact is pure garbage and spoils the article.

  • Bill

    Love Tall Ships: Picture this: Cargo under sail !!! A bow thruster’s for in close Props for tight maneuvering all electric powered;by capturing wind!!! Its all right there And we can accomplish this, We just need to think and do…. We have this technology $$ 2 Build $$ 2 Maintain free fuel 2 operate!!! diesel ship coast $$ 2 build,$$ 2 Maintain $$4 fuel!!!

    DAAAAAAAA

  • Bill

    Love Tall Ships: Picture this: Cargo under sail !!! A bow thruster’s for in close Props for tight maneuvering all electric powered;by capturing wind!!! Its all right there And we can accomplish this, We just need to think and do…. We have this technology $$ 2 Build $$ 2 Maintain free fuel 2 operate!!! diesel ship coast $$ 2 build,$$ 2 Maintain $$4 fuel!!!

    DAAAAAAAA

  • http://www.educationalpartner-ships.com Caleb Pifer

    There are a few other sailing ships that have similar programs. One of the most well known is the “Picton Castle”(www.picton-castle.com) out of Nova Scotia, Canada. She is a sail training vessel that carries cargo in her hold all over the world. She uses the money made to help offset the cost of the world voyages that she makes.

  • http://www.educationalpartner-ships.com Caleb Pifer

    There are a few other sailing ships that have similar programs. One of the most well known is the “Picton Castle”(www.picton-castle.com) out of Nova Scotia, Canada. She is a sail training vessel that carries cargo in her hold all over the world. She uses the money made to help offset the cost of the world voyages that she makes.

  • James

    Nice looking picture. Looks like the Bounty, the Kaisei and the Eagle. I don’t recognize the vessel farthest to the right though.

  • James

    Nice looking picture. Looks like the Bounty, the Kaisei and the Eagle. I don’t recognize the vessel farthest to the right though.

  • http://www.chuckbartok.com Chuck Bartok

    Actually the crew requirements for a square rigged ship are modest. Training is available globally.

    But on the drawing borads and in some production are Wind Turbine driven Ships.

    Just Google Wind Power ships

  • http://www.chuckbartok.com Chuck Bartok

    Actually the crew requirements for a square rigged ship are modest. Training is available globally.

    But on the drawing borads and in some production are Wind Turbine driven Ships.

    Just Google Wind Power ships

  • Wm

    You people need to get off the environmental train. Businessmen have not been deceived and subscribed to the eco fraud. Almost without exception, they do business to make a profit, not chase environmental causes.

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  • http://theredmullet.blogspot.com risa bear

    Speed is not everything, my dears. Amazon has an option for some items called “super saver shipping”; if you can wait a few extra days it’s way cheaper because they can bundle the item with other things going to a node in your vicinity.

    Some items don’t have to be rush shipped and can “get there when they get there.” Yes, there can be a problem with economies of scale, since no one really plans to outfit the Exxon Valdez (since renamed) with sails; but some routes can benefit from smaller vessels at lower cost.

    I’d like to see schooners designed from the keel up for small crews, ballasted with enough batteries to take solar, wind and towed chargers to provide electric auxiliary engine with sufficient power to handle calms, harbors, and clawing away from lee shores as well as winching the sails and operating the cargo hoists (where port power is not available to hook up). Such ships, from fifty to three hundred tons displacement, could cover intracoastal and interisland commerce, Great Lakes, etc., for smaller loads competitively with what it’s going to be costing to move stuff with oil, or, God forbid, bunker coal.

    & don’t have to be ugly, either!

  • http://theredmullet.blogspot.com risa bear

    Speed is not everything, my dears. Amazon has an option for some items called “super saver shipping”; if you can wait a few extra days it’s way cheaper because they can bundle the item with other things going to a node in your vicinity.

    Some items don’t have to be rush shipped and can “get there when they get there.” Yes, there can be a problem with economies of scale, since no one really plans to outfit the Exxon Valdez (since renamed) with sails; but some routes can benefit from smaller vessels at lower cost.

    I’d like to see schooners designed from the keel up for small crews, ballasted with enough batteries to take solar, wind and towed chargers to provide electric auxiliary engine with sufficient power to handle calms, harbors, and clawing away from lee shores as well as winching the sails and operating the cargo hoists (where port power is not available to hook up). Such ships, from fifty to three hundred tons displacement, could cover intracoastal and interisland commerce, Great Lakes, etc., for smaller loads competitively with what it’s going to be costing to move stuff with oil, or, God forbid, bunker coal.

    & don’t have to be ugly, either!

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  • Wm

    You people need to get off the environmental train. Businessmen have not been deceived and subscribed to the eco fraud. Almost without exception, they do business to make a profit, not chase environmental causes.

  • sundar

    your site is simply super . I need to learn a lot of things from u…….. carry on your perfect job . if time permits visit my site and comment me to improve my standard

  • Christian

    These are luxury old world products that are in no hurry to get where they’re going.

    I think the tallship adds romance and real value to the product. Wine is kept in oak barrels, ships are made of oak etc. It’s a natural fit and really good marketing.

  • Christian

    These are luxury old world products that are in no hurry to get where they’re going.

    I think the tallship adds romance and real value to the product. Wine is kept in oak barrels, ships are made of oak etc. It’s a natural fit and really good marketing.

  • Tyler

    I was thinking that the increase time on the trip mean more maintenance for crew. But since, someone said that these ships could still be run with minimal crew, it made me think that this really could be a viable alternative.

  • sundar

    your site is simply super . I need to learn a lot of things from u…….. carry on your perfect job . if time permits visit my site and comment me to improve my standard

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  • Tyler

    I was thinking that the increase time on the trip mean more maintenance for crew. But since, someone said that these ships could still be run with minimal crew, it made me think that this really could be a viable alternative.

  • haichen

    http://www.skysails.info/index.php?L=1

    This will be the future! 20 to 50% lower gas (or faster speed).

  • haichen

    http://www.skysails.info/index.php?L=1

    This will be the future! 20 to 50% lower gas (or faster speed).

  • Rusty Scupper

    >> Tall ships may move a bit slower than fossil-fuel powered ships.

    Uh, try again. The old wind powered ships were a lot slower than current commercial bulk cargo ship. More importantly, steam and oil powered cargo vessels were more reliable schedule-wise not to mention a lot less difficult to handle — especially going to windward.

    How about oar power — like in Waterworld? I heard 2/3 of all Americans are fat cows so maybe this would be a good option.

  • Rusty Scupper

    >> Tall ships may move a bit slower than fossil-fuel powered ships.

    Uh, try again. The old wind powered ships were a lot slower than current commercial bulk cargo ship. More importantly, steam and oil powered cargo vessels were more reliable schedule-wise not to mention a lot less difficult to handle — especially going to windward.

    How about oar power — like in Waterworld? I heard 2/3 of all Americans are fat cows so maybe this would be a good option.

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  • mike

    if cutting transportation time in half is a problem, try combining wind and oil power 50/50.

  • mike

    if cutting transportation time in half is a problem, try combining wind and oil power 50/50.

  • John Dolan

    Hmmmmmm…… let’s see…….30,000 bottles of french wine going to Ireland…… That should be about a 2 day supply for them. Irish whiskey and scotch to France……as far back as I can remember, over there scotch and whiskey are both the same thing. But then I don’t drink anymore…..perhaps the memory download isn’t the same these days. A french man drinking anything other than wine…..unforgivable!!

  • John Dolan

    Hmmmmmm…… let’s see…….30,000 bottles of french wine going to Ireland…… That should be about a 2 day supply for them. Irish whiskey and scotch to France……as far back as I can remember, over there scotch and whiskey are both the same thing. But then I don’t drink anymore…..perhaps the memory download isn’t the same these days. A french man drinking anything other than wine…..unforgivable!!

  • Cameron Baron

    Obviously modern day sailboats have the benefit of improved technology (autoriggers, gps, real time weather info, etc). They are still going to have serious limitations. Besides their slower speed, sailboats are rarely able to take direct routes to their destination… particularly while crossing either the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. Sudden changes in weather patterns can mean course changes that can add days and weeks to a vogage, a serious disadvantage for sailboats.

    I see sails augmenting our current superfreighters as a viable solution to energy prices… but sailboats? Prices need to come up big time.

  • Cameron Baron

    Obviously modern day sailboats have the benefit of improved technology (autoriggers, gps, real time weather info, etc). They are still going to have serious limitations. Besides their slower speed, sailboats are rarely able to take direct routes to their destination… particularly while crossing either the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. Sudden changes in weather patterns can mean course changes that can add days and weeks to a vogage, a serious disadvantage for sailboats.

    I see sails augmenting our current superfreighters as a viable solution to energy prices… but sailboats? Prices need to come up big time.

  • Brett Johnson

    Rather than 100+ year old 2-and-3 masted sailboats, we are much more likely to be seeing the modern kite-assisted ships:

    http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/01/kite-powered-fr.html

  • Brett Johnson

    Rather than 100+ year old 2-and-3 masted sailboats, we are much more likely to be seeing the modern kite-assisted ships:

    http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/01/kite-powered-fr.html

  • Jim Jones

    NIce! There is nothing like a ride on a nice sailing ship. Nothing like it anywhere!

    JT

    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  • Jim Jones

    NIce! There is nothing like a ride on a nice sailing ship. Nothing like it anywhere!

    JT

    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  • Art

    Anybody have information and a picture of the French schooner Saint Chateaux.

  • Art

    Anybody have information and a picture of the French schooner Saint Chateaux.

    • Dennis

      I have a framed print of this ship. I can’t find any information about it on the internet. Are you interested? What is the significance of this ship?

  • http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com Rod Adams

    I have been a sailor for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, the top speed of sailboats is not their only disadvantage as commercial carriers.

    Sailboats are great fun, but they require nearly constant adjustments as the wind changes velocity and direction. The beautiful sails that enable quiet, emissions free propulsion also require a substantial capital investment and regular maintenance.

    The hull speed is also only available when the wind is right. Unfortunately, that is not the case for 50-70% of the time.

    Finally, the carrying capacity of sailing vessels is much lower than that of fossil or nuclear powered vessels. There is a good reason why competitive sailboats are very spartan down below – the weight of fixtures would slow down the boat.

  • http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com Rod Adams

    I have been a sailor for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, the top speed of sailboats is not their only disadvantage as commercial carriers.

    Sailboats are great fun, but they require nearly constant adjustments as the wind changes velocity and direction. The beautiful sails that enable quiet, emissions free propulsion also require a substantial capital investment and regular maintenance.

    The hull speed is also only available when the wind is right. Unfortunately, that is not the case for 50-70% of the time.

    Finally, the carrying capacity of sailing vessels is much lower than that of fossil or nuclear powered vessels. There is a good reason why competitive sailboats are very spartan down below – the weight of fixtures would slow down the boat.

  • larryhagedon

    Amazing, but whatever works… I see some ships are now installing green algae fuel production units on board. They lower fueling costs and increase cruising range.

    If you think it is embarasing to run out of fuel on the highway, think about running out of fuel at sea. The ability to make more fuel on board ship is one of the great achevements of the new Age of Bio-Technology.

    larryhagedon

    American Flex Fuel Experience.

    AmericanFFE-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

  • larryhagedon

    Amazing, but whatever works… I see some ships are now installing green algae fuel production units on board. They lower fueling costs and increase cruising range.

    If you think it is embarasing to run out of fuel on the highway, think about running out of fuel at sea. The ability to make more fuel on board ship is one of the great achevements of the new Age of Bio-Technology.

    larryhagedon

    American Flex Fuel Experience.

    AmericanFFE-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

  • John W.

    While tall ships most likely won’t return to the mainstream, the fact that people are using them in commercial applications indicates that wind power IS gaining some serious momentum as a viable source. Check out SkySails, too (http://www.skysails.info/).

    We have always been capable of zero-emission transport (sailing is not new tech); however, the short-term direction I see it taking is a hybrid approach, where wind powers auxiliary systems and works in conjunction with the ship’s engines for propulsion. Long-term, with advances in solar, wind, and wave technology manufacturing, it is not unreasonable to think we will have zero-emission sea vessels that are just as, if not more, efficient than our current vessels.

    Anyway, I like the idea of using tall ships to transport. They are, and always will be, much cooler than modern container ships.

  • John W.

    While tall ships most likely won’t return to the mainstream, the fact that people are using them in commercial applications indicates that wind power IS gaining some serious momentum as a viable source. Check out SkySails, too (http://www.skysails.info/).

    We have always been capable of zero-emission transport (sailing is not new tech); however, the short-term direction I see it taking is a hybrid approach, where wind powers auxiliary systems and works in conjunction with the ship’s engines for propulsion. Long-term, with advances in solar, wind, and wave technology manufacturing, it is not unreasonable to think we will have zero-emission sea vessels that are just as, if not more, efficient than our current vessels.

    Anyway, I like the idea of using tall ships to transport. They are, and always will be, much cooler than modern container ships.

  • http://www.pabloavanzini.com Avanzini

    This issue comes up again and again every time there’s an oil crisis.

    Actually you really don’t need a big crew with modern sailing technology. A good example is the Maltese Falcon and her revolutionary sailing system:http://www.symaltesefalcon.com/index2.asp

    To us who love tall ships in would certainly be great news to see another reason for developing sailing technology.

    I had a chance to she her sailing last summer here in Palma de Mallorca, really impressive!.

    Regards.

  • http://www.pabloavanzini.com Avanzini

    This issue comes up again and again every time there’s an oil crisis.

    Actually you really don’t need a big crew with modern sailing technology. A good example is the Maltese Falcon and her revolutionary sailing system:http://www.symaltesefalcon.com/index2.asp

    To us who love tall ships in would certainly be great news to see another reason for developing sailing technology.

    I had a chance to she her sailing last summer here in Palma de Mallorca, really impressive!.

    Regards.

  • Tim

    Wind powered cargo vessels.Wow! What a great concept.

    The only natural way of travel that man ever invented but discarded it as being inefficient for the job.Using the power of the earths resources to propel a ship.

    With solar panels supplying electricity and winches to lower and trim sails this could be done with a small crew.

  • Tim

    Wind powered cargo vessels.Wow! What a great concept.

    The only natural way of travel that man ever invented but discarded it as being inefficient for the job.Using the power of the earths resources to propel a ship.

    With solar panels supplying electricity and winches to lower and trim sails this could be done with a small crew.

  • http://boksiora.googlepages.com/home2?105221444 Michael Smyth

    One single company is using one single ship to move one luxury product. I don’t think the headline is justified by this.

  • http://boksiora.googlepages.com/home2?105221444 Michael Smyth

    One single company is using one single ship to move one luxury product. I don’t think the headline is justified by this.

  • http://studiowordpress.com StudioWordpress

    wow, that’s a wonderful blog and as far as this blog post goes, it’s nice to see that people are doing things to keep things green even though they just want to save money, till the time it’s helping the enviornment, it’s cool!

  • http://studiowordpress.com StudioWordpress

    wow, that’s a wonderful blog and as far as this blog post goes, it’s nice to see that people are doing things to keep things green even though they just want to save money, till the time it’s helping the enviornment, it’s cool!

  • Kevin

    Ariel-

    Do you have any idea what kind of manning a vsl like this requires? I cant imagine there are a whole lot of crews capable of handling a vsl like this.

    To defend shipping for a second too, i work for an owner, we (the industry of course) carry 90% of the worlds cargo (or trade) yet only create 6% of the carbon emissions while another 18% of the worlds carbon dioxide pollution comes from other transportation. So please don’t be coming down on one of the cleanest and most efficient modes of transport in the world. I do agree that we could be more efficient. These efficiencies would lead to lower prices for everyone in everything, but until something more viable and reliable than wind power comes along. We must stay with using Heavy Fuel oils (which is just waste distillates from refineries).

  • Kevin

    Ariel-

    Do you have any idea what kind of manning a vsl like this requires? I cant imagine there are a whole lot of crews capable of handling a vsl like this.

    To defend shipping for a second too, i work for an owner, we (the industry of course) carry 90% of the worlds cargo (or trade) yet only create 6% of the carbon emissions while another 18% of the worlds carbon dioxide pollution comes from other transportation. So please don’t be coming down on one of the cleanest and most efficient modes of transport in the world. I do agree that we could be more efficient. These efficiencies would lead to lower prices for everyone in everything, but until something more viable and reliable than wind power comes along. We must stay with using Heavy Fuel oils (which is just waste distillates from refineries).

  • http://is.gd/Fo2?784036676 Tomas Maison

    With the high price of oil, tall ships are appearing again. A French sailing ship just delivered a cargo of wine to Ireland. Although they travel at half the speed of conventional cargo vessels, they require no fuel (in the form of petrochemicals, at least – the crew still has to eat).

    In related news, Halliburton has filed a patent with the Bush administration giving them credit for wind.

  • http://is.gd/Fo2?784036676 Tomas Maison

    With the high price of oil, tall ships are appearing again. A French sailing ship just delivered a cargo of wine to Ireland. Although they travel at half the speed of conventional cargo vessels, they require no fuel (in the form of petrochemicals, at least – the crew still has to eat).

    In related news, Halliburton has filed a patent with the Bush administration giving them credit for wind.

  • Ariel Schwartz

    John – the original story is linked in the first paragraph. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  • John Plax

    I’d sure like to know more about this. What’s this story’s source, and why isn’t it credited or linked?

  • John Plax

    I’d sure like to know more about this. What’s this story’s source, and why isn’t it credited or linked?

  • Ariel Schwartz

    Very interesting – thanks for the tip!

  • http://codingrelic.geekhold.com/ DGentry

    There is also Alcyone, commissioned by the Cousteau Society, which supplements its diesel engines with a Turbosail to harness power from the wind.

  • http://codingrelic.geekhold.com/ DGentry

    There is also Alcyone, commissioned by the Cousteau Society, which supplements its diesel engines with a Turbosail to harness power from the wind.

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