Prioritize Development of Wind-Powered Cargo Ships

Target: U.S. Department of Energy

Goal: Support further development of sail systems which harness wind to power cargo ships

The shipping industry is responsible for the majority of world trade, yet uses an enormous amount of fuel and contributes considerably to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Wind-power technology for cargo ships has great potential to cut these emissions significantly, if there is sufficient funding for development.

Though a large contributor to global emissions, until recently the shipping industry had not received enough attention for emissions reductions. In 2011, the International Maritime Organization of the United Nations mandated a reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases in the shipping industry. Additionally, ships in North American waters must use costly low-sulphur oil.Current measures to achieve fuel efficiency include streamlining hull design, replacing cheap bunker fuel with natural gas, and operating at slower speeds. Potentially most effective though, could be the use of sail systems on cargo ships to harness wind power.

Wind power has great potential to reduce emissions and significantly cut fuel costs. Several firms have developed and implemented designs for sails, including a 3500 square-foot kite sail, a solar panel-and-sail combination, and the more traditional multiple masts and sails system. Although considerable funding would be required for the development of these systems, and although it would be a big investment for the shipping industry, wind technology would be much more cost-effective and fuel efficient than other options in the long run. In light of increasing scarcity of cheap fuel, urgent need to curb emissions, and international mandates to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, wind power is a promising and necessary solution.

Please support the emissions mandate of the International Maritime Organization by requesting that the U.S. Department of Energy prioritize further research and development of wind-power for cargo ships.


Dear Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu,

As a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption, the international shipping industry is now under pressure by the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization to increase fuel efficiency. Several factors have potential to achieve this goal, but wind-power technology in the form of sail systems for cargo ships shows promise to be most cost and fuel efficient in the long term.

Several wind-harnessing cargo ships are in the design phase or beyond. Ships have tested one, for example, which reduces fuel consumption up to 35%; others which require more funding for development aim to reduce fuel consumption much more, or completely. Though a daunting investment for the industry, wind-power systems for cargo ships would require few further costs after establishment and would save an immense amount of fuel in the long run.

Though much of the world trade system, which the shipping industry is part of, is still behind in fuel-efficiency, this innovation is a step towards the restructuring necessary for reduction in overall fuel consumption and emissions. Please support the shipping industry and the International Maritime Organization in prioritizing further research, development and implementation of this promising energy-efficient technology.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: miamism via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. The way to go as part of the solution to prevent the destruction of our ecology.

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