Japan developing huge sailboats to keep shippers green
TOKYO -- The Japanese government will cooperate with maritime shipping companies and the University of Tokyo to develop and commercialize a huge ocean-going sailboat by 2016 that will consume only half the fuel and emit half the carbon dioxide of standard shipping vessels.
The move comes ahead of the 2015 introduction of tougher CO2 emissions rules on maritime shippers by the International Maritime Organization, an agency affiliated with the United Nations.
The government will initially provide about 10 million yen ($96,670) in funding to help cover development and other costs.
The consortium includes Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Nippon Yusen, Kawasaki Kisen and Oshima Shipbuilding. Along with the university, they will develop an 80,000-ton vessel with roughly five sails that are each 20 meters wide and 50 meters tall.
The vessel will have a computer system that calculates the wind direction in advance and instructs the sails to automatically change position to optimally harness the wind. When the breeze is weak, the ship will use heavy oil to power its engine, like standard shipping vessels. It will be able sail on wind power alone when the wind is blowing at a speed of at least 12 meters per second.
The partners are currently building a half-size mock-up at a shipyard in Nagasaki Prefecture and plan to have it finished by the end of the year.
Japan is competing heavily with China and South Korea in developing maritime vessels. Tokyo wants to promote the development of hybrid ships powered by renewable energy and conventional engines to give Japan's shipbuilding and shipping industries an edge.