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What’s The Shipping Industry’s Answer To Global Warming? Bring Back ‘Sails’

Shipping companies are considering a modern version of a centuries-old concept to power tankers essential for international trade and travel, The Washington Post reports.

Tech companies are pitching “rotor sails,” which look like spinning columns, to shipping companies who are beginning to test the motors on select ships. When enough wind is present, the columns spin and help propel the ship through water through the Magnus effect, which uses drag and lift to create force.

“It’s an old technology,” Norsepower CEO Tuomas Riski told WaPo. German physicist H.G. Magnus discovered the Magnus effect in 1853.

“Our vision is that sails are coming back to the seas,” Risk said.

The shipping industry is turning to the rotor sails and other technologies to cut its carbon footprint and combat climate change.

Shipping companies have been looking for more fuel-efficient technologies and improvements for decades, but the search has taken on a new urgency since the United Nations said all ocean traffic must switch to low-sulfur diesel fuel.

The U.N.’s International Maritime Organization made the ruling in 2016. After implementation, the rule will rule cut shippers access to fuel in the short and mid-term by forcing half the world’s refineries to close down because they are not equipped to produce the type of fuel demanded, according to Philip K. Verleger, a senior adviser at the Brattle Group.

The U.N. rule may cause the price of oil to skyrocket to $200-$400 dollars a barrel in 2020, Verleger said.

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