Mon 22 Dec 2008 17:25

Solar-propelled cargo ship is launched

Japan launches the world's first cargo ship propelled by solar power.

Leading shipping firm Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) and oil distributor Nippon Oil have launched the first ever cargo ship with a propustion system powered partly by solar energy.

The Auriga Leader took to the seas on Friday from a shipyard in Kobe, Japan, during a ceremony to mark the launch of the new vessel.

The 200-metre car freighter, which weighs approximately 60,000 tonnes was developed jointly by Nippon Yusen KK and Nippon Oil Corp in an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through the use of solar energy.

It is equipped with 328 solar panels, which were installed at a cost of 150 million yen (USD 1.68 million). The energy provided by the panels, however, is miniscule compared to the vessel's overall consumption needs.

They are currently capable of generating only 0.2 percent of the ship's engine propulsion requirements - or 40 kilowatts - and up to 6.9 per cent of the electricity necessary for lighting and other general uses. However, company officials have said that they hope to increase this ratio in the future.

The Auriga Leader is able to carry up to 6,400 automobiles. It will transport vehicles being sent for sale overseas by Japan's leading car manufacturer Toyota Motor Corp

The launch of the world's first solar-powered cargo ship comes at a time when the shipping industry faces growing pressure to reduce carbon emissions. In 2007, international shipping accounted for approximately 847 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, or 2.7 percent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

NYK Line, Japan's largest shipping company, has set itself a goal of halving its fuel consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions by 2010.

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