Sails are making a big comeback.
Come Sail Away
A new crude oil supertanker launched by the China Merchant Energy Shipping company is making use of four large sails to reduce its fuel consumption.
And with great results: the four 130-foot masts cut down the supertanker's fuel consumption by an impressive 9.8 percent, the company says, proving once and for all that relying on strong wind currents to cross our planet's oceans still makes sense in the 21st century.
The vessel looks nothing like the sailing ships of old. The ship, which is more than 1,000 feet long and dubbed "New Aden," launched late last month and features four lightweight carbon fiber composite blades that can be electronically raised or lowered.
An autonomous computer system monitors the current conditions and continually adjusts the angles of these sails to make the best use of available air currents.
While the ship still primarily relies on massive diesel engines, the company estimates that the sail system could save over 2,900 tons of carbon dioxide emissions when travelling from the Middle East to China.
It's not the first time we've heard of the use of rigid sails to reduce fuel consumption. Back in 2016 for instance, Japanese renewable energy systems company Eco Marine Power (EMP) came up with an even more ambitious design that relies on rigid sails as well as solar panels and energy storage modules for propulsion.
But, as is the case with many other concepts like it over the last decade or so, EMP's zero emission ship has yet to be built.
Which makes the new supertanker all the more impressive — after all, something already being used is more impressive than any far off concept.
Sure, the ship is still designed to carry around two million barrels of environmentally damaging fossil fuels. But at the very least, this is a step in the right direction.
READ MORE: Giant supertanker uses 9.8% less fuel thanks to 130-foot sails [New Atlas]
More on supertankers with sails: New Ship With Rigid Solar Sails Harnesses the Power of Sun and Wind at the Same Time