Just a couple hundred years ago, cargo was moved across oceans, along coastlines, and up and down rivers using one simple tool, a sail to catch the wind, which has been around for thousands of years. With the introduction of steam and eventually diesel-powered engines, a container ship was no longer at the mercy of changing wind patterns.
This has led to faster and more reliable shipping, but also over a billion tons of carbon-dioxide released into the atmosphere every year.
The Dykstra Ecoliner aims to prove that shipping can be sustainable. The new container ship, somewhat smaller than current models, is a hybrid, using familiar diesel-electric propellers, but with a new, well, old addition.
Four masts mount sails that can drive the Ecoliner up to 18 knots on the ocean, while using the diesel-electric system when the winds fail or when performing docking maneuvers. The sails are fully automatic, that is, computer controlled, and take advantage of satellite positioning and weather tracking to calculate the most efficient route using wind and currents.
Fair Transport, founded by Andreas Lackner, Arjen van der Veen, and Jorne Langelaan, partnered with Dykstra to develop the Ecoliner, which should be available next year. The Ecoliner is more expensive to manufacture, but fuel savings are expected to at least recoup that expense over the typical 30-year lifespan of a container ship.