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The world's first freighter with a 'hard sail' is hanging out off the coast of Vancouver

After a century, it seems we're heading back to wind-powered ships
The Shofu Maru is the first of its kind in the world, with a hard sail to reduce emissions.

Transoceanic journeys began with the sail, and they might just be headed back to it.

The Shofu Maru is a bulk carrier (aka a blue and red freighter just like the many in the waters off Vancouver) with a unique, and very visible, feature:  A massive, telescopic hard sail.

The sail — which can be automatically raised or lowered — captures the wind, just like the ships of old, helping propel the Shofu Maru across the ocean; it's the first bulk carrier in the world with such a sail.

The single sail, called the "Wind Challenger" by the company behind the ship, will help reduce energy costs for the ship as it crosses the ocean by as much as eight per cent.

It was launched in October of 2022 by a Japanese company, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, which worked with Australian authorities. Recently, it crossed the Pacific and is currently sitting in the waters of B.C.'s south coast not far from Vancouver's port. It's not clear how long it'll be in local waters.

Sails on freighters could be a more common sight near Vancouver in coming years, as the hard sail trend appears to be growing in the marine transportation industry, with several companies sharing plans and designs for new freighters or additions to existing freighters.

Perhaps ironically to some, the Shofu Maru transports coal around the Pacific.