This past week at the 10th International Maritime Exhibition held in Tokyo in Japan a new cargo ship concept was unveiled, named the 'Wind Challenger Project'. The Project is lead by a group which involves members from the University of Tokyo.
The aim of the Wind Challenger Project is to significantly reduce fuel consumption of large merchant/cargo vessels. The idea is to utilize giant retractable sails, 20m wide and 50m high, to make maximum use of wind energy. The idea is not really new though, sails have been used in the past. The essence of the technology lies in the fact that it will utilized modern day weather forecasting, navigation, networking and communication technology to automatically control the sails and find the best possible path to safely reach the destination with minimum fuel consumption.
Simulations have already shown an annual average of 30% reduction in fuel consumption on shipping routes such as Yokohama-Seattle.