Vol.18  No.817 Friday Edition,  August 17,  2018 Third news page
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Trade winds: Sailcargo blends old
and new in sailing freight venture

By Chris Lo

In a Costa Rican ‘jungle shipyard’, a small but ambitious team is building Ceiba, a combustion-free cargo sailing vessel that aims to combine old-world ship building techniques with avant-garde energy and propulsion systems design. Sailcargo managing director Danielle Doggett discusses the challenges and opportunities presented by the project.

As marine emissions continue to move up the global environmental agenda and the shipping industry works to identify suitable lower-emission fuels for the future, the commercial shipping industry is ripe for alternatives. Liquefied natural gas and other fuel options are gaining traction for Triple-E container ships and other massive cargo vessels, but on the more artisanal end of the shipping spectrum, a radical alternative is doing away with emissions entirely.

The last few years have given rise to a number of small companies looking to resurrect sailing cargo vessels for the 21st century. From the Schooner Apollonia project along the Hudson River to Fairtransport’s brigantine ‘Tres Hombres,’ which shuttles transatlantic cargo between Europe and the Caribbean, sailing cargo start-ups are building a zero-carbon community and leveraging the bygone skills of traditional shipbuilding.

It was working on the ‘Tres Hombres’ that galvanized the core leadership team of Sailcargo, a start-up that is currently hard at work at a ‘jungle shipyard’ in Costa Rica building Ceiba, a square sail/schooner hybrid that, once complete in 2021, will be one of the largest sailing cargo vessels of its kind. Sailcargo, which got its first finance boost through a successful $30,000 Kickstarter campaign, plans to use ‘Ceiba’ to ship cacao and coffee from Costa Rica to Vancouver, Canada and other Pacific ports along the way. The ship’s sails will be supported by a 100% electric engine and solar batteries to provide auxiliary power.

Emissions-free cargo transport is an idea that sells itself, but it doesn’t guarantee success – with the bigger-is-better economics of the modern shipping industry, is there a profitable place in the market for a true zero-emissions alternative like ‘Ceiba?’ Sailcargo managing director Danielle Doggett thinks so; here she outlines why.

“Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to do a project like this. They operate 99% emission-free for their national power, and they have a lot of legislation in place that supports environmentally active thought. Right now they’re working on a nationwide electric car set-up, and they’ve just cut all import taxes for electric vehicles to zero. Also, here we’re required to get an environmental permit for every single tree we cut, which ensures everything is being done with the best practices possible in terms of selective forestry,” said Danielle Doggett.
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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo       

The last few years have given rise to a number of small companies looking to resurrect sailing cargo vessels for
the 21st century.



The community’s been supportive, they‘ve had volunteers when they need them. But it has been a whole year of focusing 100% of them efforts on building up this shipyard from scratch. They had to run everything through solar power installed; and to put the poles in for the internet and phone line. It was really starting from the ground up. Building the shipyard hangar has been the biggest challenge.

“I definitely think ‘Ceiba’ has a place in the marine sector. Obviously it’s not competing directly with the largest Triple-E ships, but we’re going to offer a liner service from Costa Rica to Canada, stopping at several places in between,” Said Danielle Doggett.

The ship is specifically designed to sail this route, with the specific cargo density of approximately two cubic meter to the ton. So that’s looking at things like coffee and cacao, and other things around the weight of barley. They can bring things like coffee and cacao from Costa Rica up to the markets in Vancouver and Seattle, and then carry down the barley and other products.


Editor’s note: Chris Lo published his article at Shipping Technology Magazine


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