Eco-Freaks Propose Bringing Back ... Sailing Ships

Peter Mountain

In their never-ending effort to prove Ecclesiastes spot-on, the eco-freaks’ fierce determination to save the world, whether it needs it or not, remains admirable for its sheer … well, something.

It has now reached out to “they that go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters.” While their latest bit of brilliancy won’t solve supply chain issues when the issue is a combination of a worker shortage and onerous port operation restrictions laid out by government-residing ecofreakos, it will blame everything squarely on seafaring transportation entities. No more fossil-fuel burning Mother Gaia molesting for you, no sirree! We’ve got the perfect solution to scoot you and your containers full of consumer products made by the most acceptable Uyghur slave labor across the waves! It’s brand new! It’s never been tried before! It’ll revolutionize modern transportation! It’s called …

… a sail.

No. Really. They’ve reinvented the sail.

Add ships being dragged along by giant kites to the list of things the industry is exploring in its quest to decarbonize.

At the start of next year, the Ville de Bordeaux, a 154-meter-long ship that moves aircraft components for Airbus SE, will unfurl a 500 square meter kite on journeys across the Atlantic Ocean. It will undergo six months of trials and tests before full deployment.

That sound you’re hearing is Captain Jack Sparrow laughing his head off.

Making matters even more tragically comic, it’s not a proper sail or set of sails. At least with those, if you do it right, you can sail against the wind. No, it’s a glorified bedsheet. Deploy one of these bad boys, and you are more at the mercy of the wind than the Edmund Fitzgerald was at the hands of a Lake Superior storm.

It’s not like the idea of augmenting those propellers under the water thingies with some directly applied wind power hasn’t been tried as of late. High-tech propulsion augmentation systems utilizing wind power, such as the Flettner rotor, are out there. The problem is that they don’t work very well. That’s being nice about it.

Snark aside, the notion of saving money by cutting back on the amount of fuel a cargo ship uses to get from Point A to Point B has been on the mind of every shipbuilder and transportation carrier since the first oil-burning vessel hit the water sometime in the 19th Century. The perfect cargo ship would have massive container capacity, be stable even in the roughest seas, and move along at the fastest possible clip. Oh, and be as economical to run as possible. And, yes, produce as little pollution as possible. Now, what kind of propulsion method offers the last two items in spades?

One other option: have Greta Thunberg tow all cargo ships with her yacht.