Published on January 3rd, 2014 | by Nicholas Brown


The Japanese Are Developing Greener Sailboats

January 3rd, 2014 by  

The government of Japan is working with a consortium of maritime shipping companies and the University Of Tokyo to develop more energy-efficient sailboats. This might be a response to increased emissions standards slated for 2015 by the International Maritime Organization, a UN affiliate.


A sailing cargo ship.
Image Credit: Remy Musser.

The government will provide $96,670 (10 million yen) in funding to assist the development of the project, as well as other expenses associated with it. The companies in the consortium mentioned above are: Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Nippon Yusen, Kawasaki Kisen and Oshima Shipbuilding.

The project is an 80,000-ton vessel equipped with 5 sails which are 20 wide, and 60 meters tall. The sails’ positions will be adjusted by a computer system that calculates wind direction.

If wind conditions are inadequate, the ship is fueled by heavy oil, which is typical for shipping vessels. If wind speeds exceed 27 mph (12 meters per second), the ships can sail on wind energy alone.

At the moment, a smaller-scale prototype which is half the size is currently under construction in a Nagasaki shipyard.

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Image Credit: Remy Musser/Shutterstock.

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

  • JamesWimberley

    “Sailboat” is the wrong term for hybrid wind and diesel-powered cargo ships. The Hamburg company Skysails has developed propulsion kites, but has failed to win more than a few test orders. Conventional sails on masts offer less technology risk, but the masts and rigging occupy a lot of the ship’s deck and reduce its carrying capacity.

    • Omega Centauri

      I think its not just storage capacity, but the sails and masts get in the way of loading cranes.

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