US Navy Charters Kite-Powered Cargo Ship

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For the first time, the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) has chartered a kite-assisted, fuel-saving cargo ship to carry military equipment.

MV Beluga SkySails departed Newport, Wales, Oct. 5 after the first of three European port calls to load U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force cargo before the ship’s month-long voyage to the United States.

The 400-foot Beluga SkySails is the world’s first cargo ship to use a sky sail – a giant, computer-controlled kite that can rise 100 yards into the air and uses wind power to help propel the ship during long ocean transits. Though MSC frequently charters commercial ships to meet mission requirements, this is the first time the command has chartered such a ship.

The ship operating company estimates that the sky sail can reduce fuel costs 20-30 percent, or roughly $1,600 per day.

Though Beluga SkySails’ wind power was not a factor in awarding the contract, the ship operating company was likely “able to capitalize on fuel savings to make its offer more competitive,” said MSC contracting officer Kenneth Allen.

“MSC values innovation that leads to cost savings,” said Navy Capt. Nick Holman, commander of Sealift Logistics Command Europe, MSC’s area command for Europe and Africa. “We are proud to be collaborating with innovators in the commercial maritime world to provide our customers with efficient and quality service.”

MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.

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