Posted by: JohnnyRook | December 21, 2008

Japan’s first solar cargo ship–Greenwashing at Sea

The Environmental News Network has reported that Japan has launched the first “partly” solar powered cargo ship. Lest you get too excited, read on:

Auriga Leader, a freighter developed by shipping line Nippon Yusen K.K. 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 150 million yen (S$2.4 million dollars), the officials said.

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, 200m long ship is the first large vessel in the world with a solar-based propulsion system. So far solar energy has been limited to supporting lighting and crew’s living quarters.

The solar power system can generate 40 kilowatts, which would initially cover only 0.2 per cent of the ship’s energy consumption for propulsion, but company officials said they hoped to raise the ratio. [emphasis–JR]

Okay, let’s see, a ship built by an oil company to carry automobiles (I wonder how many of them will be hybrids) from Japan to the United States that produces 0.2% of it’s propulsion from solar panels. If that doesn’t meet the definition of greenwashing I don’t know what does.



  1. Hi Johnny,

    You can donate to Tim’s legal defense here.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. That’s green-washing alright. They would have been better off throwing those solar panels up on a roof top some where. I’ve been saying for a while that we need to consider energy density in our consumption. It’s easy to make electric cars because they require low energy density. However, you must have high energy dense fuels to maintain shipping and air travel. Electric airplanes just aren’t realistic with current battery weight. We should be conserving fossil fuels for airlines and shipping while also drastically cutting residential lighting, heating, and transportation fossil fuel consumption. I say, put a $0.50 / gallon tax on gas under $3.50 a gallon to curb consumption and raise money for infrastructure.

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