Cargo ships are huge polluters. This company wants to solve the problem with giant kites.
Congrats to Airseas for inventing sails.
Here’s a solution to climate change straight from r/NotTheOnion: According to Bloomberg, a company wants to drag cargo ships across the ocean with giant kites in order to cut down on carbon emissions. It’s the kind of concept that comes up in a board meeting where people are told that there are no bad ideas, so bless the poor engineers who had to take this galaxy-brained theory and turn it into an actual, functioning product.
Airseas, a company that is seeking to make shipping more sustainable, is planning to launch its massive boat kite in the near future. It’s called the Seawing, and it’s a 1,000-square-meter kite that will get its first test run at the start of next year. It will be on board the 154 meter-long Ville de Bordeaux, a ship that aviation company Airbus uses to move plane components overseas. The ship will give the giant kite a six-month test run to see if it will actually work, or if this idea should have stayed on a whiteboard somewhere in the Airseas office.
There is a lot of technical jargon that Airseas uses to accompany its explanation of the Seawing: “advanced Digital Twin technology,” “route optimization algorithm,” “EcoRouting solution,” etc. And surely the idea of dragging a massive cargo ship across the ocean is a logistical nightmare. But also, Airseas’s gadget is not exactly the most technical solution in the world. It’s a kite. We’ve had kites for like, 3,000 years. There are literally sailboats. This is not groundbreaking stuff, it’s just a Guinness World Record attempt for the largest kite that went too far.
That said, if this thing works, there are certainly some advantages. The company estimates that by harnessing wind power, it will be able to cut the carbon emissions of cargo ships by as much as 20%. Much of the functionality of the kite is automated, according to Airseas; it’ll launch at opportune times, capitalizing on favorable weather to save fuel and keep the ship on track. It is a relatively simple solution, and Airseas seems confident that it can retrofit older ships with the kite, enabling older tankers to let the wind take over.
Whether or not a giant kite is the most practical way to go about cutting carbon emissions, the fact is that we’ve got to do something to reduce the impact of the shipping industry. Nearly 90% of all global trade is transported via sea. Container shipping accounts for 3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all air travel contributes. If international shipping was a country, it would be the sixth-largest polluter on Earth.
The industry needs to undergo a reckoning, and fast. Cleaner fuels are necessary to cut down on emissions and limit the amount of pollution that oceans are forced to bear. Smarter routes that limit distance traveled would minimize some of the impact. Oh, and one way that we could help: Buy less shit. Major retailers are not particularly worried about the emissions they are responsible for, particularly when they are just meeting consumer demand. Tell big box stores to go fly a kite — and not the Seawing kind.