Japan launches first-ever solar cargo ship

Tokyo, December 19:

The world’s first cargo ship partly propelled by solar power took to the seas today in Japan, aiming to cut fuel costs and carbon emissions.

Auriga Leader, a freighter developed by shipping line Nippon Yusen KK and oil distributor Nippon Oil Corp, took off from a shipyard in the western city of Kobe, officials of the two firms said. The huge freighter capable of carrying 6,400 automobiles is equipped with 328 solar panels at a cost of $1.68 million.

The ship will initially transport vehicles being sent for sale overseas by Japan’s top automaker Toyota Motor Corp. The project was conceived before the global economic crisis, which has forced automakers to drastically cut production as sales dwindle. Company officials said the 60,213-tonne, 200-metre long ship is the first large vessel with a solar-based propulsion system.