Will shipping return to its ancient roots?

Spend a moment looking at the things around you – from the phone you’re holding to the clothes you’re wearing – the odds are that roughly 90% of everything you own came to you over the ocean.

International shipping is at the heart of many of the world’s supply chains – something that becomes only too apparent when problems occur. It’s also the source of around 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

To get on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050

international shipping will have to reduce its emissions by 15% by 2030. So far, emissions from the industry have been going more or less consistently in the other direction.

One way to reduce emissions from shipping is to introduce a very old technology: sails. Wind is a clean source of propulsion that is often in abundance at sea. Some shipbuilders are taking this inspiration from the past extremely seriously, and even making the structure of the ship out of wood.

Others, such as Oceanbird, based in Sweden, are taking a thoroughly modern approach, building a prototype ship with four rigid sails that can not only help power the ship forward, but aid its agility and manoeuvrability too.

ALso Check:Is there a better way to insulate our draughty homes?

Sails won’t be the whole answer for decarbonising shipping

clean fuels are also going to be a big part of the equation. But wind power is one promising way to reduce shipping’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Watch above the second episode of Future Planet’s video series, New Directions, where we explore how this ancient technology is inspiring the next generation of shipping.

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