Confrence on Small Scale Inland & Coastal Sail Freight 2022

A publication of:

The Center for Post Carbon Logistics

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Rondout Riverport 2040

A publication of:

The Center for Post Carbon Logistics

Rondout Riverport 2040
© Andrew Willner 2022

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Rondout past and future

This work does not constitute an exhaustive or direct set of procedures, but points the way to developing your own plans for resilient small ports. No part of this publication can be used directly without adaptation to local circumstances, and does not constitute legal, business, investment, or financial advice.

Rondout Riverport 2040 proposes a pragmatic and prosperous vision for the near future with a transformed port, boasting a shore lined with leading-edge and heritage maritime commerce that profit and engage while allowing for an equitable transition beyond fossil fuels.

Rondout Riverport will offer more capacity, be significantly more compact, and more resilient than the current patchwork of land uses found on today’s waterfront. The mission of tomorrow’s port is the post carbon maritime transport of goods and people up and down the Hudson River and beyond. Riverport is designed to attract shipping, distribution, commerce, food processing, and craft businesses. The result: a regenerative working waterfront — a gateway to the Hudson Valley and world.

The port’s versatility will depend on the linking of its economic opportunities with environmental restoration, sustainable commerce, and training centers. This multi-generational project will also be a source of inspiration for broader long-term action on climate change.

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The Sail Freighter Handbook

A publication of:

The Center for Post Carbon Logistics

The Sail Freighter Handbook
© Steven Woods 2022

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This handbook is not a comprehensive guide to Sail Freight
operations, but simply a collection of experience gained recently
during the Sail Freight Revival. It is hoped that this guide will aid in
understanding the functioning of sail freight operations, but relies on
perspective sail freight operators to be experienced sailors. The advice
in this work does not constitute an exhaustive or direct set of
procedures, but points the way to developing your own.
No part of this manual can be used directly without adaptation to
local circumstances, and does not constitute legal, business, investment, or financial advice.

Title Page Image courtesy of the University of Washington Freshwater and Marine Image Bank.

Introduction And Scope

This small book isn’t designed to be a complete manual of
everything you need to know about Sail Freight: That would be a
volume of several gross register tons, and completely unreadable.
Instead, this is designed as an introductory How-To of the practical
elements of Sail Freight. Once you have started to understand the
regulations, practicalities, and the basics of navigation, this volume
will begin to be useful. Hopefully, this is the tool you read between
understanding the theory and buying a boat, to clear up the otherwise
difficult portions of making a sail freight business function.
When looking at Sail Freight, just knowing how to sail isn’t
enough. You have to know how to get cargo back and forth to the
docks, how to recruit cargos, be your own broker, and more.
Understanding Coast Guard and state regulations is critical, alongside
many other practical concerns you’ll find mentioned in this booklet.
This tool is designed to help guide you through the practical decisions
necessary to be successful, and isn’t going to help you learn to sail, or
handle cargo, or other challenges. While this may point out gaps
which need to be filled in your knowledge, it is hoped that closing
those gaps before you begin will save a lot of headache, money, and
(possibly) lives, in the long term.

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https://postcarbonlogistics.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Sail-Freighter-Handbook-Google-Docs.pdf

Comments on the Transportation Sector of the New York State Climate Action Council Draft Scoping Plan

July 1, 2022

Draft Scoping Plan Comments
NYSERDA
17 Columbia Circle
Albany, NY 12203-6399

scopingplan@nyserda.ny.gov

Although these comments refer primarily to the Transportation Sector, we reserve the right to comment, in writing or in person, on the final version of the Scope of Work and any draft and final versions of the New York State Climate Action Plan and other documents, legislation, and regulations pertaining to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 (CLCPA).

The Center for Post Carbon Logistics (C4PCL) is a New York State non-profit organization that envisions a world of resilient, re-localized communities connected to one another through post carbon transport and logistics systems.[i] The Mission of The Center for Post Carbon Logistics is to research and assist in the implementation of appropriate post carbon maritime technology needed to keep commerce and transportation viable by responding to the interrelated connectivity, communication, equity, economic, ecological, and energy crises of the   21st Century. 

Overview of the Scoping Plan and the Transportation Sector:

The C4PCL agrees with and applauds the Council’s Benefits of Adaptation and Resilience and expects that the comments provided by the informed and engaged public will bolster the Council’s resolve to implement policies, programs, and projects to reach and exceed these aspirational goals in the short, mid, and long term.

Adaptation and resilience planning is about protecting people and ecosystems from the changes caused by a changing climate. Individuals, communities, and regions have come to recognize the need to prepare for the risks posed to their quality of life, infrastructure, and physical safety by climate change. These risks are disproportionately high for Disadvantaged Communities. Investment in adaptation and resilience can improve quality of life, stimulate local economies, and protect the environment.

Chapter 2. of the Scoping Plan lays out the impacts of climate change in New York.  The C4PCL agrees with the analysis of the impacts of the climate crisis and is willing and able to assist the Council in informing the broadest possible population with the immediacy of the threat and the need to act quickly with the necessary information to effect real change.

New York’s geographic and socioeconomic diversity will lead to a wide range of experienced climate driven impacts. Warming trends and incidences of intense heat waves will contribute to greater localized heat stresses; heavy rainfall events that exacerbate localized flooding will continue to impact food production, natural ecosystems, and water resources; and sea-level rise threatens sensitive coastal communities and ecosystems. Climate-driven impacts are magnified when accounting for New York’s most vulnerable populations, who are often disproportionately affected and on the front lines of climate change.

The Council has a responsibility to empower individuals and communities in the far-reaching actions required to mitigate and adapt to the negative socio-economic-environmental impacts of climate change. A key component must be a move away from a large-scale, global production/distribution model and toward re-localization – achieving fulfilling and equitable local livelihoods, lived in harmony with home bioregions.

Underpinning this transition is an understanding that the climate crisis requires urgent national, state, regional, and local action now. Without immediate action in New York’s transportation sector, an era of far-more-costly, and less available, fossil fuels – marked by disastrous global supply chain interruptions and shortages – looms and is inevitable. We have lost the resilience needed to cope with such system shocks. So immediate adaptation is essential.

Because words have power, The Council, must pay close attention to the thousands of commentors and be prepared to craft a compelling collective story – a promising vision of what New York in a carbon constrained future might be – not so much in policy and technological terms, but by providing community leaders the information and tools they need to engage their communities, family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues about what a positive path through the climate crisis will entail – to explore an array of innovative heritage and leading-edge technologies by which New Yorkers can thrive in decades ahead – designing and realizing pragmatic, environmentally and economically sound tools for peacefully, equitably, and intelligently transitioning away from fossil fuels. We must act together, using all our skill, ingenuity and intelligence, our home-grown creativity and cooperation, to unleash the collective genius of local communities, individuals, organizations, supported by the climate action plan, to achieve an abundant, connected, and healthier future for all.

As a species, we are storytellers. And the stories we tell collectively, whether they be found in Gilgamesh, the Bible, folklore, tradition, or government policy all serve as action plans for the time. They tell us what worked well in the past so we might move into a productive future. But sometimes those tales become outdated and the signposts pointing to safety in the past instead lead us down paths into danger.

The tale we’ve told ourselves over the last 300 years, since the “Age of Reason” and on into the modern Age of Expansion, is that we live in a time of limitless progress, of ever-expanding opportunity and possibility, in which there is a high technological fix for every problem.

In this story, we tell ourselves that unlimited growth and soaring GDP is a real measure of economic health and community wellbeing; that a rising stock market protects us, no matter how rundown our neighborhoods; that deregulation stimulates investment, even as climate destabilizing emissions rise; and that national security need only focus on existential threats beyond our borders, and not on quality of life and preservation of civil liberties.

Today, climate change — along with the socio-environmental and economic upheaval it brings — is turning the idea of endless progress on its head.  That’s why it is long past time for us to tell a new story: one that recognizes the turbulent sea of change we sail in; a story that recognizes the dangers around us but doesn’t demand a fear or grief response. This new story inspires us to prepare together as communities with open eyes, minds, and hearts — ready to face the risks of impending calamity while embracing the promise of resilience and hope of regeneration.

We need to change the narrative now, embrace a new story truer to circumstance — a storyline in which we heroically face adversity together, creating abundance out of crisis together, moving with agility through chaos toward new community values that will sustain us in the unsettled years ahead. The roots of that story are certain: we will thrive only by being earth and community stewards, rather than exploiters; only by demanding that our leaders address not only the economic balance sheet, but also our ecological and equity balance sheets. Only then will we be able to go ahead with hope and find a safe harbor in the climate crisis. Only then can we leave a better world for our children.

For the Council to tell this story we must first Assess and Evaluate:  Start by objectively assessing threats, then unflinchingly evaluate the greatest points of weakness — whether these take the form of infrastructure; social, public health, economic, environmental, or political structures. We need to fortify those weaknesses against the storms to come — work that will enrich our State, cities, towns, and neighborhoods in the present, while reducing risk and enhancing resilience for the future.  Unfortunately, the Transportation Sector is tepid in its goals and strategy for finding solutions in a timely way to the unfolding climate crisis in New York.  It is time for bold action not “hedging.,” because there is generally resistance to change, and The Council and its recommendations have powerful adversaries. 

An astroturf[1] organization, New Yorkers for Affordable Energy, a fossil fuel industry front group,  retained SKDKnickerbocker, a public relations and lobbying firm with a history of operating similar front groups working to undermine workers’ and tenants’ rights.

The corporate interests behind New Yorkers for Affordable Energy have already succeeded in eliminating a proposal from the state budget to ban fossil gas hookups in newly constructed buildings – which was recommended by the Climate Action Council in its draft scoping plan –  and are now promoting misinformation to further weaken New York’s agenda as the Climate Action Council reviews comments on its proposed plan.

New Yorkers for Affordable Energy launched a television ad that seeks to drum up opposition to the proposal through misinformation. The ad claims that the bill would “ban gas stoves and furnaces… sticking you with a $30,000 price tag to replace them.” Energy Citizens an arm of the American Petroleum Industry is telling an untruthful but compelling story…….. Want Albany to choose your appliances?  And Don’t let the government tell you what kind of appliance you can buy.“

The first thing that the Council must do to counter this negative propaganda is clarify the crisis and provide the informed and engaged public with attainable goals for a “softer landing” for our children and grandchildren in what is likely to be a chaotic midcentury future.  And hire an equally talented public information/crisis management consultant to counter the incessant and misleading negativity of the New Yorkers for Affordable Energy.

The Council must re-evaluate the use of terms like growth and competitiveness in addressing the Climate Crisis:

The faster we produce and consume goods, the more we damage the environment,” Giorgos Kallis, an ecological economist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, writes in his manifesto, “Degrowth.” “There is no way to both have your cake and eat it, here. If humanity is not to destroy the planet’s life support systems, the global economy should slow down.”

In “Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities,” Vaclav Smil, a Czech-Canadian environmental scientist, complains that economists haven’t grasped “the synergistic functioning of civilization and the biosphere,” yet they “maintain a monopoly on supplying their physically impossible narratives of continuing growth that guide decisions made by national governments and companies.

In the mid-1970s, the phrase “small is beautiful” became a counterculture slogan against the industrial threat to the environment and the scarcity of resources. Arguing against excessive materialism and meaningless growth, the late Dr. Ernest Friedrich Schumacher—the author of Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered,

… promoted the use of small-scale technology to benefit both humankind and the environment. As an economist trained in a market-oriented discipline, his thinking evolved from believing that large-scale technology could be salvation for industrial civilization to believing that large-scale technology is the root of degrading human beings and the environment.

In the Transportation Sector, as well as the entirety of the Scope of work for the Climate Plan, a new way of looking at the economy, culture and environment of New York must be adopted.  The idea that growth is necessary skews the plan away from true mitigation and adaptation to the Climate Crisis.  The document also does little to explain the role of public and private transportation policy and implementation decisions made in New York, in conjunction with the federal government, in creating and exacerbating the climate crisis.[2]

The transportation challenge: We in New York need to think differently about how to move goods and people from place to place in a carbon constrained future because we are living in an age of unprecedented change, with several crises converging. These calamities have been exacerbated by the profligate use of   cheap, non-renewable fossil fuels. This “quadruple crunch” of overlapping events, a global financial crisis, pandemics, accelerating climate change, and aberrant fluctuations in energy prices exacerbated by imminent peak oil makes it increasingly clear that this combination of events threaten to develop into a “perfect storm” with devastating economic and environmental consequences for not just the New York but for the country and the world.

New York’s transportation sector contributes almost 30% of carbon emissions. And the seminal questions that should be asked by the Council in this sector is:

  • In a carbon constrained future, how will goods and people be moved from place to place, and what role will The Climate Action Plan provide in resources and leadership? 
  • How should we meet the looming challenges of climate change, rising sea level, aging infrastructure, changes to global shipping and supply chains, threats to food security, and the risks these changes bring to New York’s environmental, cultural, and financial wellbeing?
  • How do we address this daunting multitude of challenges and turn them into opportunities for transforming transportation to serve our State far effectively and efficiently into the future?

Summary of Recommendations: C4PCL’s comments focus on opportunities, adaptation, and mitigation in the Transportation Sector and on solutions that use and enhance New York’s entrepreneurial, commercial, and industrial enterprises, makers, processors, local resources, and by training and employing New Yorkers in a carbon constrained future.

Recommendation 1. Decarbonize Maritime Transportation: Moving goods and people from place to place in a carbon constrained future will be dependent on sailing vessels, hybrid/fossil free electric ships, and people/electric, powered transport for first and last mile logistics.

Recommendation 2. Converting ICE vehicles to EVs/ZEVs/alternative fuels: There is very little disagreement that EVs/ZEVs are the future of the automobile and light truck industry.  Over the lifetime of a ZEV the carbon footprint is significantly less than an internal combustion vehicle.  One huge problem given short shrift in the Scope is what happens to all those ICE vehicles that get traded in?

Recommendation 3. Improved and Free Transit: Tallinn, Estonia made international headlines when it became the first capital city in the world to introduce free public transport for its residents in 2013.

Recommendation 4. Demand Responsive Transportation (DRT): When it comes to improving public transportation in rural areas—flexibility is key. The first step is to provide an easy and efficient way for more people to access public transportation. On-Demand Public transportation, also known as Demand-Responsive Transportation (DRT) provides a way to increase the geographical coverage of a traditional public transit service.

Recommendation 5.  Electrification of commuter, interstate, and municipal buses: Close to 90% of commuter intra and interstate buses are diesel powered.  Some municipalities are transitioning to hybrid and electric buses, but the Plan should include regulation, incentives, and subsidies for the conversion of all diesel-powered buses. 

Recommendation 6. Electrification and Solarization of freight and passenger trains: Trains are one of the most efficient and sustainable form of transport.  Worldwide around 75% of trains have been electrified, while 25% still use fossil fuels. The bad news is that even electric locomotives use a partially polluting mix

Recommendation 7. Improved bicycle and E-bike transportation opportunities: Although electric bicycles didn’t receive much attention during the COP26— to the chagrin of some sustainability mobility advocates — 2021 was the year they found a more welcoming home around the world. An analysis by Business Research published in mid-November estimated global e-bike sales at $36.5 billion for the year, a compound annual growth rate of more than 12 percent over 2020. Within three years, revenue could reach $53.3 billion, the market research firm predicts.

Recommendation 8. Airships and electric aircraft: Airships are relatively inexpensive, they can carry a substantial amount of cargo, and they are significantly more environmentally friendly than their heavier-than-air relatives. Once thought to have passed into memory, airships are having something of a renaissance.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

Recommendation 1: Decarbonize Maritime Transportation

Moving goods and people from place to place in a carbon constrained future will be dependent on sailing vessels, hybrid/fossil free electric ships, and people/electric, powered transport for first and last mile logistics.

Despite its present dominance, our current maritime logistics system is fragile. It is reliant upon carbon-based fuels driving internal combustion engines. It is interwoven into long-distance, globalized world trade. It is designed for Just-In-Time delivery. And it depends upon its present ability to avoid paying for negative externalities such as carbon emissions and environmental pollution, and to avoid being governed by meaningful labor, environmental, health, and other laws.

polluting vessel

The international shipping industry is one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters. If the maritime sector were a country, it would be one of the top six carbon polluters.  The shipping industry has been reluctant to take unilateral leadership on emissions.  The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is puttering around the edges. It recently declined to make a greenhouse gas reduction plan or commitment. The United States for a variety of reasons, chief among them that there is a tiny US flag fleet, has remained almost silent on this issue.

The Center for Post Carbon Logistics (C4PCL), along with a local, regional, and international coalition posit an alternative.  That alternative is disruptive competition from an emerging suite of technologies –solar, wind/sail, and green hydrogen  powered shipping on New York waterways.  Water-borne shipping, even now, is dramatically more energy-efficient than its land-based counterpart.  New York, with its network of waterways connecting the Great Lakes to the Hudson, to New York Harbor, and the ocean, has a leadership opportunity in growing this industry.

Achieving New York State’s Climate Act’s goals will require addressing the enormous footprint of transporting goods and people using fossil fuels.  Building Future Proof ships in New York’s Hudson River shipyards is the first step toward a regenerative shipping industry on New York’s canals, the Hudson River, The Harbor, the East Coast, Caribbean, and transatlantic routes.

New York’s Waterways:

What role will New York’s waterways play a carbon constrained future? How should we meet the looming challenges of climate change, rising sea level, aging infrastructure, changes to global shipping patterns, threats to food security, and the risks these changes bring to New York?

The USDOT Maritime Administration (MARAD) America’s Marine Highway Program was created by Congress in 2007 and expanded in 2012 and 2016. Marine Highways are water-based freight corridors. For example, M-87 includes the Hudson River and connects ports and harbors from New York City to Albany and navigation channels such as the Erie Canal. The MARAD program was created to expand the use of the country’s navigable waterways to relieve landside congestion, reduce air emissions, and provide new transportation options to increase the efficiency of the surface transportation system. MARAD administers a grant program to fund system improvements. New York is served by Marine Highways M-87, M-90, M-95, and M-295.

The Hudson River, a Water Highway

Not so long ago the Hudson River was a bustling highway linking even the smallest communities to a web of regularly scheduled commercial routes. Schooners, sloops, barges, and (much later) steamboats provided a unique way of life for early river town inhabitants. Farmers, merchants, quarrymen, brick factories, and oystermen relied on this vibrant and diverse fleet of vessels to bring in supplies and deliver their goods to market. This arm-of-the-sea was an integral part of the lives of those who worked New York’s waterways.

However, life at the water’s edge is rapidly changing. The impacts of new technology, patterns of urban development, and globalization are redefining global logistics, and while some waterfront cities will thrive as ports and grow under these new conditions, others will need to evolve to survive and succeed…. How will New York re-invent its maritime transportation sector?

How do we address this daunting multitude of challenges and turn them into opportunities for transforming our waterways and ports to serve our regional and national economy effectively and efficiently into the future?

  • If present trends continue, New York and its largest and smallest ports will need to be transformed into the spokes of a hub for “short sea shipping”  rather than serving as terminus for unsustainable container cargo. The good news: the New York has an extensive network of waterways, and so is very well suited for the short sea shipping mode of freight transport. Moreover, public agencies and private companies are investigating the potential economic and environmental benefits of transferring more cargo from road to sea.
  • As New York moves forward to low/no carbon shipping and the working waterfronts of tomorrow, the constraints, and in some cases the advantages, of smaller and (s)lower tech modes of transport must be considered to support these imminent changes.
  • If the New York’s maritime transport and working waterfronts are to thrive, 19th, 20th, and 21st Century technology must meld seamlessly into new, mid-century methods of transport with an emphasis on what might seem like bygone, but productive, methodologies to become more self-sufficient and sustainable.

Priorities, amendments/additions to Transportation Sector:

Green Shipping Corridor
  1. The Council Adopts a Hudson River Green Shipping Corridor:[ii]

Achieving zero emissions from maritime transportation over the coming years and decades will require research, development, demonstration, and deployment at a massive scale, as well as enabling policies that incentivize the shift to low- and zero-emission fuels and technologies as soon as possible.  Adoption of these fuels and technologies, while limited in the short term, will rapidly accelerate once the supply chain is established and governments and the shipping sector signal their intent for energy transition.Green shipping corridors are meant to accelerate this early adoption phase. They therefore should strive for emissions reductions that push the envelope beyond business-as-usual, demonstrating a commitment to achieve full decarbonization through sustained efforts.  Green shipping corridors will not achieve zero emissions across all aspects of the corridor overnight.  Instead, the journey to establish a fully decarbonized corridor is a series of steps and actions taken over time to cover all aspects of the route.

One of the first steps in creating a green shipping corridor is to convene relevant stakeholders across the value chain and to outline anticipated timelines, targets, and achievements.  Creating a fully decarbonized green shipping corridor is a process, which will require long-term plans to help participants achieve their emissions reduction goals.  Stakeholder engagement will be critical, especially with residents in communities with environmental justice concerns, to ensure strategies are tailored to address the priorities and goals of near-port communities. New York State through its Climate Plan establishes the Hudson River, and the New York State Canal System as the nation’s first Green Shipping Corridor.

2. The Council/New York DOT Support a MARAD Marine Highway Project Designation for M-87 Hudson River:

In April 2022 the C4PCL and colleagues[3] provided the NYSDOT, with materials for consideration to become the applicant for the Maritime Administration, Marine Highway project designation for Hudson River based maritime commerce projects.  The Department responded after several weeks of deliberations, without explanation, that the project did not qualify.  We, adamantly disagree and although the deadline for applications for project designations has passed for this year, we believe that these projects have merit and will continue to pursue them, and specifically ask that this project designation is included in the Climate Plan’s Transportation Sector. 

New York Marine Highways

Why this designation?

The Hudson River properly prides itself in being the cradle of pioneering maritime technology and the birthplace of the environmental movement.  It has always been a magnet for innovative thinkers and doers in transportation technology, maritime commerce, engineering, agriculture, business, and artisanship who are inventing new ways of doing business and employing people with a smaller environmental footprint and a passion for equity and inclusion.  Our regional post carbon maritime strategy is designed to engage and support the creative economy, broadly defined, and to be disruptive in a positive way. 

This collaborative effort extends the entire length of the M-87 Marine Highway[4] corridor and revolves around, but is not limited to the New York State Canal System, Hudson River, New York Harbor, the US East Coast, and Caribbean. 

To highlight the benefits, increase public awareness and promote The Hudson River as a necessary alternative to “landside” shipping and transportation options, a group of maritime professionals and advocates from all around the region propose a series of Marine Highway project designations to:

  • Adopt a Hudson River Green Shipping Corridor
  • support existing and proposed low/no carbon commercial maritime ventures and post carbon logistics,
  • enhance ship building and repair industries,
  • the revitalization and resilience of small Hudson River ports,[5] 
  • and the re/training of shipwrights, longshore and logistics professionals, and mariners.  (see 6.The Hudson River Maritime Innovation Center)

In the 19th until the mid-20th centuries, the Hudson River bustled with commerce and lay at the heart of a thriving network of “Marine Byways” — waterways stretching from the Atlantic west to the Great Lakes linking cities and the smallest communities to a web of regularly scheduled transportation routes.  For hundreds of years, thousands of ships and boats of all sizes served local cargo and passenger needs. The Hudson River — and the ships and boats sailing her — were vital to those who lived and worked along these inland waters, putting those communities on the map.

Today, however, waterways like the Hudson River, and its small ports are underutilized. Incentivizing shippers to use this critical transportation corridor more consistently would create significant public benefits and opportunities, including but not limited to a lower carbon footprint for the movement of freight and passengers.

Solaris

This initiative is well along in the process with initial vessels such as the sail cargo Schooner Apollonia, and the Solar Electric CG inspected passenger vessel Solaris already in service, the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s  Boat School and maritime history exhibits, sail freight exhibit, sail freight conference, and education projects, and major sailing vessel restoration projects,  as well as active commercial, shipwrights,  shipyards and boat builders throughout the corridor.  Within the next 1 – 5 years, it will create and enhance a wide array of public benefits for the people in this strategic corridor.  It will:

  • create and sustain jobs on New York built vessels, and at ports, and shipyards
  • relieve landside congestion in transportation and shipping
  • show by practical example, the use of emerging resilient and renewable propulsion technologies
  • improve New York’s and the US economic competitiveness by adding new cost-effective freight and passenger transportation capacities
  • improve environmental sustainability of New York’s and the US transportation system by using less energy and reducing greenhouse gases per passenger or ton-mile of freight moved

Marine Highway Proposal for Project Designation:

Although the M-87, the Hudson River from NY Harbor to the Erie Canal is designated a Marine Highway, until recently with the reinvigoration of sail cargo and solar powered passenger service, there has been underutilization of the river’s small ports.  The primary commercial vessels currently transiting the Hudson are petroleum and chemical barges, some ocean-going ships, and tug and barge project cargo going directly from New York Harbor to Albany/Troy, and some seasonal tour and cruise ships.

The proposed Marine Highway project designations will address this limitation as it activates a network of maritime transportation advocates, shipping and agricultural products processing enterprises, “makers” and small manufacturers, first and last mile logistics businesses, ship yards and boat builders, community organizations, municipalities, counties, and The State of New York to revitalize the Hudson’s maritime economy anticipating the challenges and advantages of moving goods and people by water in a carbon-constrained future, and to ensure that this vision is aligned with community, ecological, and equity values and sensibilities; to achieve this goal.  The following are the projects that are proposed for designation to make them eligible for funding under the Maritime Administration, Marine Highway grants program.

Proof of Concept:

Schooner Apollonia

The Schooner Apollonia is engaged in commerce under sail on the Hudson River and New York Harbor. Apollonia is a 64-foot steel-hulled schooner built in Baltimore, MD in 1946. She is designed to move efficiently through the water, powered by a traditional gaff-rig sail plan designed by naval architect J Murray Watts.  With a 15’ beam and rugged steel construction, she’s a stout work boat capable of carrying 20,000 lbs. of cargo. Being a schooner, the crew requirements are smaller, and the variety of sails gives flexibility for different conditions that we will encounter on the river.  Apollonia is the descendant of the Hudson River Sloop and the proof of concept for Jones Act compliant, purpose-built sail cargo vessels designed for River, Harbor, and short sea coastal trade.

  • Hudson River/New York Harbor Sail Cargo Service
    • When designated, the project funding will be used to expand the operations of the Schooner Apollonia and the ports and customer she services.  Apollonia is an existing sail cargo business transporting primarily malt, flour, and grain to distilleries and breweries, other agricultural products to processors, and shelf stable local food and beverage products to customers.  To continue to develop the route, secure docking, loading, and unloading facilities, warehousing, first and last mile low carbon logistics, secure haul back cargoes, upgrades to existing vessel, and R&D and design a purpose-built ship(s) for this route will require significant public and private investment. 
    • Develop a low carbon logistics system, more of a “warehouse in transit,” than “just in time” model.  To implement the “parallel” low/no carbon logistics system, a “post carbon” third party logistics company (PC3PL) will be established. This PC3PL provider is a specialist company that will provide a range of distribution, storage, transport, and fulfillment services to Apollonia, (and to other vessels as the fleet expands) as well as low/no carbon first and last mile logistics companies, producers, purveyors, wholesalers, retailers, and end users. These companies would outsource these types of operations to the PC3PL business and rely on the PC3PL to offer end-to-end management of specific services.[iii]
  • The expansion of an existing maritime cargo service:

To meet the emergent climate crisis, and to confront the immense carbon pollution of the existing fossil fueled transport of goods and people throughout New York and the Hudson Valley, a new generation of  “future proof” Liberty from Fossil Fuel Ships will be upgraded, repurposed, and locally built to enable the continued movement of goods and people from place to place by water in a carbon constrained future, and  to highlight the benefits, increase public awareness, and promote The Hudson River as a necessary alternative to “landside” shipping and transportation options.

These ships will be brutally simple, but elegant, re-used, re-purposed, and purpose built by local shipwrights to kick start the revival of US flagged ships in domestic, short sea, and international trade. Using proven construction techniques and tried and true (as well as innovative) sail propulsion/electric propulsion technology these “flagships of the future” will be the first steps in adapting to and mitigating the climate crisis, that in significant part is caused by fossil fueled transport.

Locally built, from locally sourced and recycled materials, crewed with locally trained mariners, home ported along the Hudson, the Harbor, and the canals, carrying locally grown, locally processed, and locally manufactured goods – with liberty from fossil fuels, these future proof ships will be a positive disruption to the status quo.

Eriemax RSS 80 Geoff Uttmark
  1. Purpose built vessels for M-87, M-95, and M-90 Marine Highway Service:
    • Eriemax Sail/Electric Canal, River, and Coastal Cargo and Sail Training Vessel:
  2. develop final design, building plans, and price of construction at a Hudson Valley Shipyard, for a purpose-built prototype 80’ canal, river, and coastal, sail cargo vessel for a new generation of climate adaptive modular design freighters using the best combination of traditional and new technology.  The $800K to 1.5 million (estimated) price for construction could come, in part from the Federal Ship Financing Program (Title XI) and significant public, private, and crowdfunded investment.  Concept in Appendix 2.
Electric Clipper Derek Ellard Design
  1. R&D, design, and develop shipyard drawings for a purpose built 180-200’ “short sea” and transoceanic “Electric Clipper” sail freight and training vessel with a cargo capacity of up to 900 tons or 36 TEUs. A concept drawing of this vessel is included in appendix 2. The estimated $2.5 to 3.5 million construction cost could come from the  Federal Ship Financing Program (Title XI) and significant public, private investment and crowdfunded investment. 
  2. Hudson River Solar Ferries. This grant, when designated, will support a comprehensive ferry master plan to develop a new, modern, efficient, solar electric passenger and cargo ferry design for Hudson River transits. The plan will serve as a comprehensive analysis of operations and service needs, and help determine the types, sizes, and number of ferries that are needed in the future. With a regional and national push towards a low carbon economy transition, the Hudson River passenger ferry system can incorporate technologies within the vessels that can benefit the environment, passengers, and the communities the ferries serve.  These funds will also be used to develop preliminary designs for these vessels and will make use of the three years of performance data from the operation of the solar electric Coast Guard inspected passenger vessel Solaris.  An additional option would be to convert the existing Beacon/Newburg Ferry to battery electric. This project then could be considered an expansion of existing service.  
  3. The Marine Byways and Resilient Small Port Toolkit,[iv] when designated, will collect, and disseminate (in reports, apps, and interactive websites) new and existing information to enable the revival of small port working waterfronts, and small to medium sized maritime and logistics businesses. This data collection will include but not be limited to review, analysis, and reporting of the findings of government and non-governmental reports and publications, as well as field checking and developing new sources of information.[v] Examples already underway, or completed are  GIS port mapping work being done by the Schooner Apollonia and the Center for Post Carbon Logistics with assistance from Vassar College interns,[6] and GIS flood mapping work done by Kytt McManus at Columbia, and by Scenic Hudson’s Sea Level Rise Mapper.
    1. Rondout Riverport 2040/A resilient small port blueprint 
      1. A paper prepared for a conference in September 2021 for the Wind Propulsion Conference held by the Royal Institute of Naval Architects.  The paper was republished in two parts at Resilience.org. Rondout Riverport 2040 Part 1, and Part 2.  This report and publication along with other materials can be the basis of planning for resilient small ports throughout New York.

5. Decarbonizing Recreational Boating

In 2018, 2019 there was total of 440,381 boat registrations, of which, 435,213 were registered for recreational purposes in New York. Those, primarily powerboats consist of fossil fueled 2 and 4 stroke outboards and inboard gasoline or diesel engines, many large and small sailboats have auxiliary outboard or inboard gasoline and diesel engines.   

  • Jet skis and pleasure boats combined accounting for 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline in the US.
  • Resins in fiberglass boats, “Dacron” in sails and lines are derived from fossil fuels
  • Boats release numerous harmful substances into aquatic and marine environments, including nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs).
  • ships and boats in the US produced about 44.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2019

E-boat and electric motor manufacturing opportunities

Electric powered boats, like electric automobiles were ubiquitous in the early to mid-twentieth century and are seeing a resurgence as motors, batteries, and solar panels become lighter and more available.  There are New York based electric boat and motor manufacturers and with the appropriate incentives, such as expanding the Green Boat program statewide will provide more employment opportunities and economic development while reducing the carbon footprint of recreational and tourism boating.

  • Solar Sal Boats is a solar electric boatbuilding manufacturer founded by David Borton a New York based solar boat pioneer.  Solar Sal boats was the client for the construction of Solaris, the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s solar electric Coast Guard inspected solar electric passenger vessel.
  • Elco is a electric yacht and motor manufacturer located in New York.  “Combining traditional and proven designs with trailblazing motor and control technology, Elco leads the industry in electric propulsion. Elco outboard and inboard electric and hybrid propulsion systems provide quiet and clean power for those water-based activities.”
  • Finger Lake Electric Boat  is an electric boat company located in the heart of the Finger lakes of New York. Taking over the production of Adirondack Electric Boat that started in the year 2001 they are continuing the production of Adirondack style electric boats.  In addition to building the Adirondack style electric boats we are in the process of adding new electric boat models to the Finger Lakes Electric Boat fleet.
  • Halevai Boats will build renewable energy solutions for the marine industry. We are developing better building materials and methods to build boats. Founded in 2020, Halevai is a new concept boat manufacturer focused on design, reliability and conservation.  Our debut craft, the model 2050, was inspired by the goals of the historic COP21 UN climate conference and is the first high performance boat in its category to be fully electric powered.  
  • Scarano Boat Company electric powered canal boat replica.  Scarano Boat designs and builds period wood, aluminum, composite, and steel boats, Coast Guard–certified for public transportation and excursions. Scarano Boat has developed a national reputation for modern wood construction. Scarano Boat has found a niche in the production of replica sailing vessels, and certified passenger vessels with classic styling and appointments. 
electic catamaran conversion (Rik van Hemmen)

Converting Fossil Fueled recreational boats to hybrid/electric

Instead of developing technologies to replace current recreational boating equipment, some vessels can be “retrofitted,” for a more efficient performance.

  • For example, in 2015, a small team of researchers successfully converted an 18’ Pursuit 2000 S2 gasoline-powered boat into a hybrid electric boat, or HEB. Specifically, they replaced a nonfunctional Evinrude 225 V6 engine with a battery-powered electric motor.[7] The new eco-friendly design is intended for use in rivers and lakes, primarily. The deep-cycle batteries can be solar charged and powered by a hydrogen fuel cell unit as a bonus.  
  • In 2020, another team followed suit, aiming to “[convert] a traditional internal combustion engine-powered leisure boat into an electric propelled type.” This project also focused on battery power, particularly a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). This reduces fuel consumption and could potentially save boaters money on refueling.[8]

According to the American Boating Association, “Clean boating and other forms of environmental stewardship (or the lack thereof) has the potential to affect a significant portion of the Nation’s economy.”. Electric propulsion can start to put an end to greenhouse gas production.

student shipwright

6.    The Hudson River Maritime Innovation Center, a multiyear proposal:  Year one, planning and facility(ies) identification) The Maritime Innovation Center will help the region’s maritime industry adopt new, and traditional maritime technologies, stimulate innovative entrepreneurship, promote knowledge transfer, business incubation, and workforce development to address maritime innovation challenges and opportunities.

The Maritime Innovation Center will provide training for the next generation of shipwrights, longshore and logistics professionals, and mariners, sustain maritime industries, and assist the Hudson Valley region’s ports to modernize and become more climate adaptive, enhance post carbon logistic operations, promote green shipbuilding, and provide good jobs in the marine industry, and key lines of businesses, services, and products.

Vision for the Center: The Hudson Valley will be a hub for resilient maritime businesses by creating a system of innovation that drives productive collaboration among non-profit, industry, academia, and local, county, and state government. Partnering with other maritime enterprises and organizations the Maritime Innovation Center will provide a physical place where professional practitioners, students, and apprentices can participate in theory and practice workshops for teaching and learning new maritime technologies while preserving the skills of the past to serve a carbon constrained future. 

Focus:  The Center will focus on marine technology, and marine policy. Attendees should expect to spend time on ships and in shipyards in all seasons with the Innovation Center’s business and public partners. The Innovation Center will work to develop authentic activities on and around, ports and the river that create a sense of responsibility to the Hudson River and develop a new generation of maritime advocates, workers, and decision-makers who know how to use their heads, hearts, and hands. 

It will be designed to help those who participate discover their interests and passions, not just prepare them for tests. At its core, the is about inspiring personal growth through craftsmanship, community, and maritime tradition.  Paraphrasing the title of Transition Town Rob Hopkins’ book, The Hudson River Maritime Innovation Center will be the embodiment of the “Power of Just Doing Stuff.”  

Floating Office Rotterdam

Facility, structure, and location: A new or climate adapted historic shoreside building(s), a vessel like the Floating Hospital Ship (Now moored in the Rondout Creek), or a floating facility like the Floating Office Rotterdam will be built, adapted, or restored, and modernized into a LEED-certified, “future proofed,” and environmentally friendly facility. It will include a mix of classrooms and working space for incubators, accelerators, and anchor tenants along with fabrication and event space. The facility will be a “Living Structure” with advanced sustainability and resiliency features.

This center will benefit the region and the maritime community in several ways: 

  • Creating new employment opportunities for young people, and retraining experienced workers in the participating startups and established maritime businesses
  • Building the region’s status as a center for excellence in the maritime economy in a carbon constrained future.
  • Elevating awareness of entrepreneurs and stimulating confidence in the maritime industry to create new (and renewed) products and services 
  • Creating new opportunities for established area businesses to develop relationships with early-stage companies
  • Nurturing the next generation of diverse, inclusive, and representative maritime workforce with technological expertise and access to “green,” living-wage jobs as mariners, ship and boat builders, logistics specialists, welders, woodworkers, riggers, sailmakers, and battery and solar electric propulsion installers, and maintenance techs among others.

Recommendation 2. Converting ICE vehicles to EVs/ZEVs:

There is very little disagreement that EVs/ZEVs are the future of the automobile and light truck industry.  Over the lifetime of a ZEV the carbon footprint is significantly less than an internal combustion vehicle.  One huge problem given short shrift in the Scope is – what happens to all those ICE vehicles that get traded in?  Normally the vehicles whether sold privately or traded into a dealer will be resold and can operate for tens of thousands of miles more with the same or increased emissions.  Even if all ICE vehicles are taken out of service in New York by a certain date, those vehicles will be sold in another state or overseas, so there will be no net reduction in emissions for the life of those vehicles.

ICE to EV conversion

Subsidize the ICE to EV,ZEV, alternative fuel conversion business in New York:

Presently ICE to EV conversions are limited to specialty custom businesses for customers with “classic” or “performance” cars, and some kits sold to DIY mechanics.  The process can range in price from less than $10 thousand to more than $100 thousand.  However, if New York made the decision to subsidize/incentivize new conversion businesses, re/training mechanics, and provide tax credits and other incentives to vehicle owner “first adaptors” that brought the cost down to less than the price of a new ZEV there are several overlapping benefits.  Many people like their present cars and light trucks and may resist buying a new, expensive EV that feels, looks, and drives differently than their present vehicle. 

Working with NYSERDA, NYSDOT, NYSDEC, NGO’s and other relevant businesses, institutions, and federal agencies initiate demonstration projects:

  • Municipalities, counties, and state agencies decarbonize their fleets
  • BOCES training and retraining programs for conversion specialists, for independent mechanics and dealer employees
  • “Cash” for engines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks, and accessories for more than scrap value.
  • Computerized supply chain for used and new motors, batteries, brake vacuum pumps, power steering, electric heaters, seat heaters, EV adaptable air conditioning, and regenerative braking systems.
  • Subsidies and tax advantages for electric motor and battery manufacturers to relocate to New York.
  • Work with vehicle producers to provide components for conversion, E.g. Ford Lightning parts for Ford ICE pickups.
  • Incentivize dealers to convert ICE trade ins to EV’s
  • Incentivize School districts to convert diesel school buses to EVs and alternative diesel.
    • When we consider emissions from electric school buses, it is important to remember that the population most exposed to diesel school bus emissions are children. Children are especially vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution.  
  • Incentivize fleet operators and car rental businesses to buy conversions or set up conversion facilities
  • Incentivize farmers to convert diesel tractors and other ICE vehicles to alternative diesel and EVs.
  • Incentivize police, fire, and emergency departments to convert existing ICE fleets.
  • Set regulations and standards and train inspectors for both professional and DIY conversions
  • Prohibit the exportation of functioning ICE vehicles from New York to other States or overseas.
  • Provide subsidies and incentives for “fryer fat” to biodiesel conversion facilities.
  • Provide subsidies for biodigesters for biogas from organic waste facilities.

Recommendation 3. Improved and Free Transit:

Public Transportation Improves Commuters Productivity

Free Public Transit enhances all these benefits:

Tallinn, Estonia made international headlines when it became the first capital city in the world to introduce free public transport for its residents in 2013. With a population of almost half a million, the municipality undertook the measure to make access to public transport more equitable and for the perceived economic benefits.

“We wanted to improve social mobility and stimulate the local economy by getting people out and about on the evenings and weekends,” says Allan Alaküla, Head of Tallinn’s EU Office and spokesperson for the scheme.

Surveys conducted by the city in 2010 and in 2011 indicated that ticket costs had become the main barrier to increasing usage of public transport, which was in turn hindering the city’s broader economic development.

Island Transit has been a fare-free bus system since its founding in 1987. You don’t need a ticket, cash, or coins to ride the bus, which makes bus transportation a very easy and convenient way to travel around Island County. Just hop on and go. Bus service is funded through 9 tenths of 1% of Island County’s local sales tax and supplemented by state and federal grants.

Stinger Anderson got hooked on riding the bus after a colleague showed him how. He loves the tradeoffs including more time and money to spend in other ways.

Recommendation 4. Demand Responsive Transportation (DRT):

When it comes to improving public transportation in rural areas—flexibility is key. The first step is to provide an easy and efficient way for more people to access public transportation. On-Demand Public transportation, also known as Demand-Responsive Transportation (DRT) provides a way to increase the geographical coverage of a traditional public transit service. This means vehicles can cover a larger service area and reach more passengers. By utilizing DRT technology to improve fleet efficiency and give passengers a way to book public transportation—Councils, Fleet Operators and Transit Agencies in rural communities can easily improve their Public Transportation offering.[vi]

Recommendation 5. Electrification of commuter, interstate, and municipal buses:

Mass transit is the antidote to climate change,” MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said at a Midtown press conference, adding that transit avoids putting 17 million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually (e.g., by keeping people out of cars). Transportation is the second-largest contributor of greenhouse-gas emissions in New York, after buildings.

Close to 95% of commuter intra and interstate buses are diesel powered.  Some municipalities are transitioning to hybrid and electric buses, but the Plan should include regulation, incentives, and subsidies for the conversion of all diesel-powered buses.  The MTA has an electrification program but only a very small percentage of its fleet is electric. 

The MTA now deploys 1,300 hybrid gas-electric buses, 399 of which sometimes operate solely on electric power in an “EV mode.” It pledges to purchase only electric buses by 2029. New York State budgeted $1.1 billion for buying 500 electric buses in the 2020-2024 capital plan.  This goal must be ramped up and speeded up and should include all municipal and county transit systems in the
State.

In the Portland, OR metro area, TriMet says it has cut its carbon emissions by more than 50% in the last six months by transitioning to renewable diesel and renewable electricity. It’s also trying to grow the number of electric buses in service.

According to the Sierra Club’s Zero Emission Bus Fact Sheet:

  • EV buses already have lower comparative lifetime costs than diesel buses and CNG buses, and costs continue to drop rapidly.
    • Government estimates of zero emission bus prices sharply decline as advances in battery manufacturing and increased demand drive down costs. By 2025an electric bus is expected to cost $480,000, equal to or less than the cost of a new diesel vehicle.
  • Locked In O&M savings can then be used to expand the EV bus fleet, generating further savings
    • Electric buses also have substantially lower operating and maintenance (O&M) expenses as compared to their diesel and CNG alternatives. With an electric or hydrogen fuel cell bus, there are no oil changes or emissions tests, fewer parts that can break, and less wear on braking systems. The average lifetime maintenance cost for an electric bus is just $.60/mile.
  • EV Buses provide significant reductions in tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions
    • It is also important to consider where these emission reductions will occur. Transit buses tend to operate in heavily populated urban areas and suburban corridors. Pollution from these sources falls directly upon the surrounding communities and commuters.

Anecdotally there are no electric interstate buses operating in or to and from New York.  This provides an additional opportunity to convert diesel and natural gas buses to alternative diesel and EV’s.  See Solution 2.

The Germany-based company FlixBus ran an electric bus pilot recently from Seattle to Eugene. The company purchased Greyhound in October, but it has been steadily expanding the U.S. market for intercity travel since it landed here in 2018.

Recommendation 6. Electrification and solarization of freight and passenger trains[vii]

Trains are one of the most efficient and sustainable form of transport.  Worldwide around 75% of trains have been electrified, while 25% still use fossil fuels. The bad news is that even electric locomotives use a partially polluting mix. The Council should set specific timetables for the electrification of all commuter and freight trains in New York and calculate the solar and other alternative electric power generation needed to accomplish this.

  • Continue electrification of diesel branches of commuter rail
  • Require that electricity be generated from non-fossil fuel sources
  • Working with NYSERDA provide grants to encourage the development of solar electric[viii] and fuel cell powered commuter and freight trains. 
  • Solarize all commuter rail stations (for trains, EV’s, and E-bikes) and create charging stations at rail maintenance yards.
  • Working with the Federal Railroad Administration and the NYSDOT begin the electrification of all freight/cargo trains in New York State. 
  • If electrification is not feasible research the use of hydrogen fuel cells, direct burning of green hydrogen or biogas or biodiesel in diesel/electric train engines and switching modes from rail to maritime. See Recommendation 1.

Recommendation 7. Improved bicycle and E-bike transportation opportunities:

Cargo E-bike

Although electric bicycles didn’t receive much attention during the COP26— to the chagrin of some sustainability mobility advocates — 2021 was the year they found a more welcoming home around the world. An analysis by Business Research  estimated global e-bike sales at $36.5 billion for the year, a compound annual growth rate of more than 12 percent over 2020. Within three years, revenue could reach $53.3 billion, the market research firm predicts.

E-Bikes for commuting and first and first and last mile logistics:

  • According to calculations touted by a legislative proponent of this idea, California Congressman Jimmy Panetta, if e-bikes handled many short-distance trips — particularly for commuting — currently traveled by cars, it would cut emissions by 12 percent.
  • While e-bike proponents generally talk up the benefits for individuals and commuters, the format also holds substantial promise when it comes to last-mile delivery, especially in urban environments where tricycles or quadricycles powered by pedal assist/battery could be a practical alternative to trucks and vans.

Commuting, recreation, local shopping, and first and last mile logistics using E-bikes and trikes will have significant public and private benefits:

  • Improved health
  • Manufacturing, assembly, maintenance, and sales contribute economic benefits to the communities in which they are located.
  • Improves over all fuel efficiency
  • Reduces air pollution if E-bike batteries are charges from alternative power sources.
  • reduces road congestion
  • Improves individual and community mobility
  • Provides a more equitable transportation system

Next steps:

NYSERDA grants and state, county, and municipal subsidies and incentives for the manufacturing, sales, maintenance, and infrastructure for both recreational and commercial uses of E-bikes that include but are not limited to:

  • BOCES and other training facilities for E-bike builders, repair technicians, and sales.
  • Incentives for the development of E-bike, motor, and battery manufacturing facilities in New York
  • Dedicated bike lanes for rural and urban roads
  • Charging infrastructure and bike rental facilities at rail and bus stations and workplaces.
  • Employee incentives for use of E-bikes for commuting. Establishing a benefit that lets employers offer bike-commuting workers — those who do it regularly rather than occasionally a per month subsidy.
  • Higher tolls, congestion pricing, taxes, and incentives for the elimination of large trucks in urban centers
  • Traffic calming, street narrowing, de-paving, and xeriscaping.
  • The State working with other government divisions to change zoning to encourage and accommodate more bike friendly development patterns.
  • Multiple uses of “rail trails:”
    • Rail trails are primarily used by recreational hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.  A multi-use trail could accommodate small commercial E-bikes for cargo during certain hours and with some restrictions.
    • In many European countries bike paths, particularly in urban areas are shared with trolleys and other mass transit.  Even some of our existing rail/trails could be modified to accommodate inter-city trolley traffic along with the current uses safely.  The relatively small cost of replacing bridges and the use of self-contained battery electric rubber-tired trolleys would make this feasible.  The trails were originally designed for trains with the correct grade.

Recommendation 8: Airships and electric aircraft

Airship

Airships are relatively inexpensive, they can carry a substantial amount of cargo, and they are significantly more environmentally friendly than their heavier-than-air relatives. Once thought to have passed into memory, airships are having something of a renaissance.

  • Over a decade ago, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called specifically for cargo operators to embrace dirigibles to meet environmental targets. An airship is estimated to produce 80 to 90% fewer emissions than a conventional aircraft.

Heavy Lift Cargo Airships:

•             Made of aluminum frames- lightweight, solid, and proven
•             Vertical take-off and landing
•             Operates in strong front & cross wind conditions (50 Knots)
•             Needs NO airport infrastructure/ground crew – operates on any flat space
•             Burns 80 – 90% less fuel than equivalent aircraft
•             Flies at 150-220 mph

•             Costs 80-90% less than equivalent payload aircraft to purchase and operate
•             Rivals in cost with truck or rail (point to point)
•             At least 40 years working life expected

 Short Haul Passenger Airships, More environmentally friendly air travel:

Airship journeys would take around the same time as airplane travel once getting to and from the airport is considered, however they would be a more environmentally friendly option. The airships generate a much smaller carbon footprint than airplanes. The CO2 footprint per passenger on its airship would be about 4.5kg compared with about 53kg via jet plane. Airships are ‘ideally suited to inter-city mobility applications like Seattle to Vancouver or Buffalo to New York City, at a tiny fraction of the emissions of current air options.

With new flexible solar panels made part of the skin of the airship, and new electric motor and lightweight battery technology, not only could airship travel become a part of New York’s transportation infrastructure, but with the appropriate subsidies and incentives, manufacturers could be encouraged to relocate manufacturing to the State. 

Electric Airplanes:

Half of all global flights are shorter than 500 miles. That’s the sweet spot for electric aircraft. Fewer moving parts, less maintenance, and cheap(er) electricity means costs may fall by more than half to about $150 per hour For airlines, this makes entirely new routes now covered by car and train possible (and profitable) thanks to lower fuel, maintenance, and labor costs.

Electric propulsion nearly solves another problem for aviation: carbon emissions. Aviation emits more than 2%  of the world’s CO2 emissions, and it may reach nearly a quarter by mid-century. With no alternative fuel ready to leave the ground, and the number of air passengers set to double by 2035, electricity may offer the industry its best way forward in a climate-constrained world.

Conclusion:

As New York sails into an uncertain, but surely dangerous, climate crisis, we can move steadily away from reliance on increasingly undependable fossil fuels, giant transnational companies, and international finances.  We can build energy, food, and economic redundancies into local communities to buffer them against international and national shortages and systems collapses. We can invest in our neighborhoods and our neighbors, working together to create “too small to fail” Main Street businesses, non-profits and local governments that strive in union to serve their communities and the people.

None of this will insure us totally against the dangers ahead, but preparedness will give our state resilience and staying power. By acting now with foresight and hard work, we can care for each other, reinvesting in people and the land, creating a future for the Hudson Valley that emphasizes Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share.

We can create organizational and institutional structures that are sustainable, endowed with ethical values that serve all citizens not only a privileged elite.  The emphasis will not be on blind, reckless progress at all cost, but on the creation of an equitable society that avoids resource depletion while fostering slow growth, and most importantly, hope for everyone, including the most vulnerable people and species. 

Appendix 1. Low/No Carbon Maritime Resources:

  • International Windship Association: “The International Windship Association (IWSA) facilitates and promotes wind propulsion for commercial shipping worldwide and brings together all parties in the development of a wind-ship sector to shape industry and government attitudes and policies.”
    • Fairtransport : For 10 years we have shipped cargo across the Atlantic by the power of the wind alone!
  • Hudson River Maritime Museum: The Wooden Boat School was founded by the Hudson River Maritime Museum in 2015 to preserve the maritime craft traditions of the Hudson Valley and to teach a hands-on interpretation of the living history of the Hudson River.
  • Good Work Institute: The Good Work Institute’s mission is to cultivate, connect, and support a network of local community members who are fostering resilience and regeneration in the Hudson Valley.
  • Post Carbon Institute
  • New Dawn Traders Sail Cargo Alliance: New Dawn Traders is co-creating the Sail Cargo Alliance (SCA) to support a new and growing community interested in shipping ethical cargo under sail. Beyond building viable trade for these sailing vessels, the SCA is committed to setting the highest standards for ethics across the supply chain. This is an alliance of ship owners, brokers, producers and anyone interested in working together in a healthy transport culture.
  • Drawdown: Project Drawdown gathers and facilitates a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.
  • Low Tech Magazine : Low-tech Magazine questions the blind belief in technological progress, and talks about the potential of past and often forgotten knowledge and technologies when it comes to designing a sustainable society. Interesting possibilities arise when you combine old technology with new knowledge and new materials, or when you apply old concepts and traditional knowledge to modern technology.
  • Zero Emission Ship Technology Association: Our Mission is to prevent catastrophic climate impacts by assisting commercial shipping to reduce emissions on a steep trajectory.
  • ECOCLIPPER: We are establishing a professional shipping company that offers emission free transport and travel, by making use of engine-less sailing ships. The start-up crew combines top maritime expertise that is relevant to the sailing cargo industry, decades of experience in business development and sound management expertise.
  • Sustainable Hudson Valley: Sustainable Hudson Valley’s mission is to speed up, scale up, jazz up and leverage progress against climate change, creating communities where people and nature thrive. With a wide range of partners,
  • Revolution Rickshaws: Established in 2005, Revolution Rickshaws is a live-electric urban vehicle (LUV) systems & services enterprise based in New York City. Revolution researches, develops, and maintains LUVs in partnership with multiple world-class industry brands including Cycles Maximus, our long-time bikemobile manufacturer and collaborator, to deliver optimal goods and services to market.
  • Sail Cargo Inc.: Our mission is to prove the value of clean shipping
    • Eliminating fossil fuels from the maritime sector is achievable by using advanced technology and simple techniques. We combine innovative, clean technologies with readily-available, low-cost, natural systems to create solutions for a range of needs: from supporting vulnerable coastal communities to moving commodities at global scale.
  • Original content, curated news, and articles: The Center for Post Carbon Logistics
  • Small-Scale Sail Freight On Coastal And Inland Waters, Author Steven Woods: Sail Freight has slowly worked its way into the realm of sustainability discourse as a way of reducing emissions from transportation, providing logistical solutions using the emissions free power of the wind and technologies proven effective for over 5000 years. This attitude toward Sail Freight and transportation in general has some merits, but none of these discussions seem to have examined the issue of readopting sail freight at scale.
  • New Age of Sail looks to slash massive maritime carbon emissions: If ocean shipping were a country, it would be the sixth-largest carbon emitter, releasing more CO2 annually than Germany. International shipping accounts for about 2.2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N. International Maritime Organization.
  • Industries for Small Communities, Arthur E. Morgan: Morgan’s goal, through his life’s work and in the 1953 publication specifically, was to shift the prevailing mindset regarding small-scale industry. Then, as now, what Morgan termed “bigness” was glorified and small communities were rapidly losing young people to urban centers. Still, he knew that small businesses existed across the country, and that the communities that housed them could be vibrant and fulfilling places to live.

Appendix 2.  Eriemax and Electric Clipper

Eriemax, 80’ canal, river, and coastal sail freighter, Geoff Uttmark design

Electric Clipper, 180-200’ short sea and trans-oceanic sail freighter, Derek Ellard design


[1] Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.

[2] The Council on behalf of the State must admit culpability.  The For the last fifty years the State of New York, the Governors, departments, the legislature, and its congressional representatives have had ample information, data, and scientific evidence of the impacts of a changing climate on the environment of New York, including but not limited to the impacts of  subsidies for road building over rail, urban sprawl, air and water pollution, and squandering of opportunities to mitigate or begin to adapt to the climate crisis that has been exacerbated by transportation policy and actions.

[3] The Schooner Apollonia, Eriemax/ShipShares,  The Center for Post Carbon Logistics, , Sustainable Hudson Valley, RevX, and Solar Sal Boats, Martin, Ottaway, van Hemmen &Doyle, Inc,

[4]The M-87 Route is the Hudson River, connecting commercial navigation channels such as the Erie Canal, ports, and harbors from New York City to Albany, NY. It spans eastern New York State. It connects to the M-90 Route at Albany, NY and the M-95 Route at New York City.

[5] MARAD defines a small port as a coastal seaport, Great Lakes, or inland river port to and from which the average annual tonnage of cargo handled during the 3 calendar years immediately preceding the time of application is less than 8,000,000 short tons.

[6] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1J8PlvNw8ZvBGocHFcGX_Fj0xmy3gyn1WvveK_cb7OHE/edit#gid=899225407

[7] Yildiz, F., Coogler, K. L., & Amador, R. (2015). Conversion of a gasoline powered boat to a hybrid electric boat. Journal of Engineering Technology, 32(1), 52-63. https://www.proquest.com/openview/cfd13c6dbb26ed0fdebc07560b680916/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=32062

[8] Caprara, G., Martirano, L., & Balleta, C. (2020, June). Preliminary analysis of the conversion of a leisure boat into a battery electric vehicle (BEV). IEEE Xplore. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/9160492


[i] Issues We Address:

Looking forward rationally at all the indicators, the “business as usual” choice takes us down a road to cataclysmic food and energy shortages, transportation disruption, infrastructure failure, inundation from sea level rise, financial meltdowns and its attendant social disarray.

Possible response strategies:

We do These Things

Preserve, knowledge:

  • The Center will house a traditional knowledge data base, library, and a pre/post carbon tool, technology, and machinery collection.  This activity is an ambitious effort to preserve, restore and promote the re-use of traditional skills.

Movement Building, advocacy:

  • The Center promotes maritime, and first and last mile technology necessary for moving goods and people from place to place in a carbon constrained future.
  • The Center is an advocate for existing and emerging low carbon shipping and post carbon transportation businesses and organizations.
  • The Center is an advocate for appropriately sized working waterfronts in small to mid-sized ports throughout the the Hudson Valley, NY Harbor, Canals, and the Atlantic Coast.
  • The Center advocates for a transition that people will embrace as a collective adventure, as a common journey, as something positive.   Paraphrasing the title of Transition Town Rob Hopkins’ book, The Center for Post Carbon Logistics will be the embodiment of the “Power of Just Doing Stuff.”

Train, individuals and organizations:

  • Partnering with other enterprises and organizations The Center will provide a physical place where professional practitioners and apprentices can participate in theory and practice workshops for preserving the skills of the past to serve the future
  • The Center will host regional, national, and international conferences on post carbon logistics, traditional skills, and sail freight
  • The Center will provide educational opportunities and creative, implementable, real world solutions to the 21st century environmental, economic, and social crises enabling people to work locally to transition our communities and bio-region away from a fossil fuel-based economy to a “restorative economy,” one that is human-scaled, embraces alternative locally based energy, and that is less extractive.

[ii] Green Shipping Corridor:

In April 2022 the US Department of State put out a Fact Sheet, Green Shipping Corridors.  That said in part:

In support of the effort to achieve global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050, and in support of the effort to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions from the international shipping sector by the same year, the United States is charting a course to advance domestic and international green shipping corridors.

[iii] This PC3PL providers is a vital part of maritime based supply chain management. 

  • Procurement:  ordering and receiving goods from purveyors in the supply chain. 
    • Order fulfillment and Consolidation: Receiving an order from customers and arranging for the orders to be completed and shipped.[iii] PC3PL will combine goods from multiple shipments into one shipment so they can be transported together.
    • Storage: Providing temporary storage for goods in warehouses or similar facilities.
    • Transportation and Distribution:[iii] Arranging for consolidation, management, and transportation of goods from the producer, to the first and last mile provider, drayage[iii] to and from a temporary storage or warehouse to the water-based transport of goods and point of destination. 
    • Moving goods between methods of transport

To support this new logistics model certain data, need to be collected and analyzed based on previous and anticipated activities, this information includes but is not limited to:

PC3PL will also offer a range of supplementary services including IT, inventory management, and reverse logistics,[iii] and tracking of goods using GPS and Internet of Things (IoT) devices

[iv]The Marine Byways and Resilient Small Port Toolkit products will include but not be limited to:

  1. A review and analysis of the pros and cons of previous short sea and Hudson River maritime cargo transport projects including the Vermont Sail Freight ProjectAlbany Express Barge service, The Hudson River Corridor Foodway Project, and the project cargo business of the NY State Marine Highways Co.  
  2.  A compendium of pier/dock/bulkhead and navigation conditions, using field checks, existing and new photographs, and satellite images
  3. A review of New York City’s “Delivering Green” Plan to determine the location of appropriately sized small ship docks and piers, and accessibility for low/no carbon first and last mile logistics providers.
  4. Make available, existing and newly created GIS maps and charts of small and medium sized ports throughout the M-87 Marine Highway System for the use of mariners and port operators
  5.  port gazetteers[iv]
  6. Financing for port improvements
  7. Guidance for local communities to develop working waterfront zoning, deed restrictions, and easements
  8. links to sustainability and resilience resources.  
  9. links to local and regional naval architects, shipbuilders, and boat yards, as a resource for sail cargo and solar ferry entrepreneurs and public agencies with an interest in low/no carbon water transport of goods and people.
  10. A compendium of local, state, and federal agencies and what assistance they offer, and sources of funding for:
    1. planning assistance for small port improvements for low/no carbon commercial freight and passenger vessels.
    1. Assistance in the creation of working waterfront inventories
    1. Protecting existing working waterfronts through land conservation, easements, and deed restrictions.
    1. Building waterfront EV charging stations including electric boat and ship hook ups 
    1. Accommodate existing or potential low/no carbon first and last mile logistics providers, storage, and warehousing
    1.  Develop waterfront recreation compatible with port operations
    1. climate resilience projects, retreat strategies,
    1. wetlands and benthic habitat restoration/adaptation strategies,
    1. and sample Zoning ordinances to assist small port and riverfront towns to retain their water dependent businesses and ecological services. 

[v] NYMTC Resiliency Planning

 NYMTC Freight Planning

NYMTC Sustainability Planning

NYMTC Regional Freight Report  

Delivering Green, a NYC sustainable freight plan

Final UCTC Year 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan

Kingston NY Climate Action Plan 2030

NY DEC Climate Action Plan

(Mid) Hudson Regional Climate Action Strategy

Rondout Riverport 2040

Kingston, NY’s Weaving the Waterfront

Scenic Hudson Sea Level Rise Reports,

NY State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program

National Working Waterfront Network

 Sustainable Working Waterfronts Toolkit 

financial and port and docking information gathered by the Schooner Apollonia’s multi-port cargo operation,

interviews with local, county, state, and federal transportation, and economic development agency officials,

materials developed by non-governmental organizations,

navigation, port, and logistics information from contemporary and historic sources (including the Hudson River Maritime Museum Collections)  

Interviews with farmers, food processors, brewers, distillers, and small local manufacturers, makers, and logistics providers

interviews with local, county, state, and federal transportation, agriculture, and economic development officials,

materials developed by non-governmental organizations,

navigation, port, and logistics information from contemporary and historic sources  

[vi] DRT a form of shared private or quasi-public transport for groups traveling where vehicles alter their routes each journey based on particular transport demand without using a fixed route or timetabled journeys. These vehicles typically pick-up and drop-off passengers in locations according to passengers needs and can include taxis, buses or other vehicles.

One of the most widespread types of demand-responsive transport (DRT) is to provide a public transport service in areas of low passenger demand where a regular bus service is not considered to be financially viable, such as rural and peri-urban areas. 

[vii] Electric Trains vs. Diesel Trains:

Though trains are more efficient than trucks, not all trains are equally efficient. Diesel-powered trains transfer about 30-35 percent of the energy generated by combustion to the wheels, while supplying electricity directly from an overhead powerline transfer about 95 percent of the energy to the wheels. Powering trains with electricity rather than diesel has several other benefits.

  • While prices of diesel fuel are currently low, many analysts predict that the long-term trend is for those prices to increase. Conversely, prices of electricity are falling with the fast-growing use of renewable energy sources. Even at current prices, with the energy conversion rates mentioned above, it is estimated that it is 50 percent less expensive to power a train by electricity than by diesel.
  • The cost of electric locomotive engines is about 20 percent less than diesel locomotive engines on the global market, and maintenance costs are 25-35 percent less than for diesel engines.
  • Eliminating diesel-powered locomotives would reduce air pollution including soot, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides, all of which affect public health as well as the environment. This is especially important as many railroads pass through urban areas. It would also reduce noise levels in cities, as well as traffic deaths due to trucks (rail freight causes only about one-eighth as many fatalities as truck freight per ton-mile).
  • Switching from diesel to electricity would also help address the challenge of replacing petroleum-based liquid transportation fuels with cleaner alternatives as we seek to lower our greenhouse gas emissions.

[viii] Are solar trains feasible?

In research focused on providing solar power to electric trains, it is enlightening how efficient this transportation mode can really be.  Electric trains are 50 percent to 75 percent less polluting than single-passenger cars and trucks and use comparably less energy per passenger-mile, according to a 2009 detailed analysis by Chester and Horvath.

Electric trains are so efficient that a single 300-watt solar panel (about 4×6 feet) can provide up to 7,000 miles of an individual’s commuting miles per year, or 5 to 20 miles per day. The national average, based on National Transportation Database data on the efficiency of the various U.S. electric train systems, is about 4,000 miles per year for each 300-watt solar panel. One mile of train tracks can support 1 megawatt to 3 megawatts of solar panels, which can provide 2 million and 6 million passenger-miles of train travel.

Wind power is another obvious option for powering electric trains with on-site renewables — where there are strong wind resources. Distributed wind has not taken off in the U.S. anywhere near to the degree that distributed solar has, but it could be a viable option in many circumstances, particularly where there are state rebates to offset the cost of wind turbines. Wind power in desirable locations is still cheaper than power from solar panels and can also complement solar power by producing power at night.

How to design a sailing ship for the 21st century?

Re-posted with permission from Kris De Decker and Low-tech Magazine

Most images: Alan Villiers collection.

It is surprisingly difficult to build a carbon neutral sailing ship. This is even more the case today, because our standards for safety, health, hygiene, comfort, and convenience have changed profoundly since the Age of Sail.

On board the ship `Garthsnaid’ at sea. A view from high up in the rigging. Image by Allan C. Green, circa 1920. 

The sailing ship is a textbook example of sustainability. For at least 4,000 years, sailing ships have transported passengers and cargo across the world’s seas and oceans without using a single drop of fossil fuels. If we want to keep travelling and trading globally in a low carbon society, sailing ships are the obvious alternative to container ships, bulk carriers, and airplanes.

However, by definition, the sailing ship is not a carbon neutral technology. For most of history, sailing ships were built from wood, but back then whole forests were felled for ships, and those trees often did not grow back. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, sailing ships were increasingly made from steel, which also has a significant carbon footprint.

The carbon neutrality of sailing in the 21st century is even more elusive. That’s because we have changed profoundly since the Age of Sail. Compared to our forebears, we have higher demands in terms of safety, comfort, convenience, and cleanliness. These higher standards are difficult to achieve unless the ship also has a diesel engine and generator on-board.

The revival of the sailing ship

The sailing ship has seen a modest revival in the last decade, especially for the transportation of cargo. In 2009, Dutch company Fairtransport started shipping freight between Europe and the Americas with the Tres Hombres, a sailing ship built in 1943. The company remains active today and has a second ship in service since 2015, the Nordlys (built in 1873).

Since then, others have joined the sail cargo business. In 2016, the German company Timbercoast started shipping cargo with the Avontuur, a ship built in 1920. [1] In 2017, the French Blue Schooner Company started transporting cargo between Europe and the Americas with the Gallant, a sailing ship that was built in 1916. [2] All these sailing ships were constructed in the twentieth or nineteenth century, and were restored at a later date. However, a revival of sail cannot rely on historical ships alone, because there’s not enough of them. [3]

The Noach, built in 1857.

At the moment, there are at least two sailing ships in development that are being built from scratch: the Ceiba and the EcoClipper500. The first ship is being constructed in Costa Rica by a company named Sailcargo. She is built from wood and inspired by a Finnish ship from the twentieth century. The second ship is designed by a company called EcoClipper, which is led by one of the founders of the Dutch FairTransport, Jorne Langelaan. Their EcoClipper500 is a steel replica of a Dutch clipper ship from 1857: the Noach.

“Old designs are not necessarily the best”, says Jorne Langelaan, “but whenever proven design is used, one can be sure of its performance. A new design is more of a gamble. Furthermore, in the 20th and 21st century, sailing technology developed for fast sailing yachts, which is an entirely different story compared to ships which need to be able to carry cargo.”

More economical sailing ships

These two ships – one under construction and one in the design phase – have the potential to make sail cargo a lot more economical than it is today. That’s because they have a much larger cargo capacity than the sailing ships currently in operation. As a ship becomes longer, her cargo capacity increases more than proportionally.

The Eco-Clipper

The 46 metre long Ceiba is powered by 580 m2 of sails and carries 250 tonnes of cargo. The 60 metre long EcoClipper500 is powered by almost 1,000 m2 of sails and takes 500 tonnes of cargo. For comparison, the Tres Hombres is not that much shorter at 32 metres, but she takes only 40 tonnes of cargo – twelve times less than the EcoClipper500. A larger ship is also faster and saves labour. The Tres Hombres requires a crew of seven, while the EcoClipper500 only has a slightly larger crew of twelve.

Life cycle analysis of a sailing ship

Although the EcoClipper500 is still in the design phase, she will be the focus of this article. This is because the company conducted a life cycle analysis of the ship prior to building it. [9] As far as I know, this is the first life cycle analysis of a sailing ship ever made. The study reveals that it takes around 1,200 tonnes of carbon to build the ship.

Half of those emissions are generated during steel production, and roughly one third is generated by steel working processes and other shipyard activities. Solvent-based paints as well as electric and electronic systems each account for roughly 5% of emissions. The emissions produced during the manufacturing of the sails are not included because there are no scientific data available, but a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation (for sails based on aramid fibres) signals that their contribution to the total carbon footprint is very small. [4]

The EcoClipper500 has a carbon footprint of  2 grammes of CO2 per tonne-kilometre, which is five times less than the carbon footprint of a container ship.

If these 1,200 tonnes of emissions are spread out over an estimated lifetime of 50 years, then the EcoClipper500 would have a carbon footprint of about 2 grammes of CO2 per tonne-kilometre of cargo, concludes researcher Andrew Simons, who made the life cycle analysis for the ship. This is roughly five times less than the carbon footprint of a container ship (10 grammes CO2/tonne-km) and three times less than the carbon footprint of a bulk-carrier (6 grammes CO2/tonne-km). [5]

Looking aft from aloft on the ‘Parma’ while at anchor. Alan Villiers, 1932-33. Villiers’s work vividly records the period of early 20th century maritime history when merchant sailing vessels or ‘tall ships’ were in rapid decline.

Transporting one ton of cargo over a distance of 8,000 km (roughly the distance between the Caribbean and the Netherlands) would thus produce 16 kg of carbon with the EcoClipper500, compared to 80 kg on a container ship and 48 kg on a bulk carrier. The proportions are similar for other environmental factors, such as ozone depletion, ecotoxicity, air pollution, and so on.

Although the sailing ship boasts a convincing advantage, it may not be as big as you might have expected. First, as Simons explains, there’s scale. A container ship or bulk carrier enjoys the same benefits over the EcoClipper500 as the EcoClipper500 enjoys over the Tres Hombres. It can take a lot more cargo – on average 50,000 tonnes instead of 500 tonnes – and it needs only a slightly larger crew of 20-25 people. [6]

Second, fossil fuel powered ships are faster than sailing ships, meaning that fewer ships are needed to transport a given amount of cargo over a given period of time. The original ship on which the EcoClipper500 is based, sailed between the Netherlands and Indonesia in 65 to 78 days, while a container ship does it in about half the time (taking the short cut through the Suez canal).

Building a fleet of sailing ships

There’s two ways to further lower the carbon emissions of sailing ships in comparison to container ships and bulk carriers. One is to build ships from wood instead of steel, such as the Ceiba. If the harvested trees are allowed to grow back (which the makers of the Ceiba have promised), such a ship may even be considered a carbon sink.

However, there’s a good reason why the EcoClipper500 will be made from steel: the company’s aim is to build not just one ship, but a fleet of them. Jorne Langelaan: “There are few shipyards who can deliver wooden ships nowadays. Steel makes it easier to build a fleet in a shorter period.”

A possible compromise would be a composite construction, in which a steel skeleton is clad with timber keel, planks, and deck. Andrew Simons: “This would reduce the carbon footprint of construction by half. It could also be feasible to make superstructures and some of the mast sections and spars from timber instead of steel.”

Driving sprays over the main deck of the ‘Parma’. Alan Villiers, 1932-33.

Towards the future, another possibility to further decrease a sailings ship’s emissions per tonne-km is to build it even larger. While the EcoClipper500 has much more cargo capacity than the cargo sailing ships now in operation, she is far from the largest sailing ship ever built.

Historical ships such as the Great Republic (5,000 tonnes), the Parma (5,300 tonnes), the France II (7,300 tonnes), and the Preussen (7,800 tonnes), were more than 100 metres long and could take more than ten times the freight capacity of the EcoClipper500. Langelaan already dreams of a EcoClipper3000.

Passengers

Most cargo sailing ships travelling across the oceans today can also take some passengers. Fully loaded with cargo, the EcoClipper500 takes 12 crew members, 12 passengers, and 8 trainees (passengers who learn how to sail). If the upper hold deck is not used for cargo, another 28 trainees can join, so that the ship can take up to 60 people on board (with a smaller cargo volume: 480 m3 instead of 880 m3).

The carbon footprint for passengers amounts to 10 g per passenger-km, compared to roughly 100 g per passenger-km on an airplane.

Consequently, and since ocean liners have disappeared, the EcoClipper500 also becomes an alternative to the airplane. According to the results of the life cycle analysis, the carbon footprint for passengers on the EcoClipper500 amounts to 10 grammes per passenger-kilometre, compared to roughly 100 grammes per passenger-kilometre on an airplane. Transporting one passenger thus produces as much carbon emissions as transporting 1 tonne of freight.

Engine or not?

Importantly, the life cycle analysis of the EcoClipper500 assumes that there is no diesel engine on-board. On a sailing ship, a diesel engine can serve two purposes, which can be combined. First, it allows to propel the ship when there is no wind or when sails cannot be used, for example when leaving or entering a harbour. Second, combined with a generator, a diesel engine can produce electricity for daily life on board of the ship.

For most of history, energy use on-board of a sailing ship was not too problematic. There was firewood for cooking and heating, and there were candles and oil lamps for lighting. There were no refrigerators for food storage, no showers or laundry machines for washing and cleaning, no electronic instruments for navigation and communication, no electric pumps in case of leaks or fire.

However, we now have higher standards in terms of safety, health, hygiene, thermal comfort, and convenience. The problem is that these higher standards are difficult to achieve when the ship does not have an engine that runs on fossil fuels. Modern heating systems, cooking devices, hot water boilers, refrigerators, freezers, lighting, safety equipment, and electronic instruments all need energy to work.

Crewman of the ‘Parma’ with a model of his ship. Alan Villiers, 1932-33.

Modern sailing ships often use a diesel engine to provide that energy (and to propel the ship if necessary). An example is the Avontuur from Timbercoast, who has an engine of 300 HP, a 20 kW generator, and a fuel tank of 2,330 litres. Large sail training vessels and cruising ships have several engines and generators on-board. For example, the 48m long Brig Morningster has a 450 HP engine and three generators with a total capacity of 100 kW, while the 56m long Bark Europa has two 365 HP engines with three generators – and burns hundreds of litres of oil per day.

Depending on the lifestyle of the people on board, the emissions per passenger-km may rise to, or surpass, the levels of those of an airplane.

Obviously, the emissions and other pollutants of these engines need to be taken into account when the environmental footprint of a sail trip is calculated. Depending on the lifestyle of the people on board, the emissions per passenger-km may rise to, or surpass, the levels of those of an airplane. To a lesser extent, electricity use on-board also increases the emissions of cargo transportation.

Energy use on board a sailing ship

The EcoClipper500 has no diesel engine on board, which is a second reason to focus on this ship. Obviously, a sailing ship without an engine cannot proceed her voyage when there’s no wind. This is easily solved in the old-fashioned way: the EcoClipper500 stays where she is until the wind returns. A ship without an engine also needs tug boats – which usually burn fossil fuels – to get in and out of ports. For the EcoClipper500, these tug services account for 0.3 g/tkm of the total carbon footprint of 2 g/tkm.

Without a diesel engine, the ship also needs to generate all energy for use on board from local energy sources, and this is the hard part. Renewable energy is intermittent and has low power density compared to fossil fuels, meaning that more space is needed to generate a given amount of power – which is more problematic at sea than it is on land.

Renewing caulking on the poop of the ‘Parma’. Alan Villiers, 1932-33.

To make the EcoClipper500 self-sufficient in terms of energy use, a first design decision was to shift energy use away from electricity whenever possible. This is especially important for high temperature heat, which cannot be supplied by electric heat pumps. The ship will have a pellet-stove on board to provide space heating, as well as a biodigester – never before used on a ship – to convert human and kitchen waste into gas for cooking. Thermal insulation of the ship is another priority.

Nevertheless, even with pellet-stove and biodigester (which themselves require electricity to operate), and with thermal insulation, energy demand on the ship can be as high as 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day (2 kW average power use). This concerns a “worst-case normal operation” scenario, when the ship is sailing in cold weather with 60 people on board. Power use will be lower in warmer weather and/or when less people are taken. During an emergency, the power requirements can amount to 8 kW, while more than 24 kWh of energy can be needed in just three hours.

Hydrogenerators

How to produce this power? Solar panels and wind turbines are only a small part of the solution. Producing 50 kWh of energy per day would require at least 100 square metres of solar panels, for which there is little space on a 60 m long sailing ship. Vulnerability and shading by the sails make for further problems. Wind turbines can be attached in the rigging, but their power output is also limited. The low potential of solar and wind power are demonstrated by the earlier mentioned sailing ship Avontuur. She has a 20 kW generator, powered by the diesel engine, but only 2.1 kW of solar panels and 0.8 kW of wind turbines.

The hydrogenerator is the only renewable power source that can provide a large sailing ship with enough energy for the use of modern technology on board. Hydrogenerators are attached underneath the hull and work in the opposite way as a ship’s propeller. Instead of the propeller powering the ship, the ship powers the propeller, which turns a generator that produces electricity. In spite of its name and appearance, the hydrogenerator is actually a form of wind energy: the sails power the propellers. Obviously, this only works when the ship is sailing fast enough.

Furling sail on the main yard of the Parma. Alan Villiers, 1932-33.

The EcoClipper500 will be equipped with two large hydrogenerators, for which Simons calculated the power output at different speeds, taking into account the fact that the extra drag they produce slows down the ship somewhat. He concludes that the EcoClipper500 needs to sail at a speed of at least 7.5 knots to generate enough electricity. At that speed, the hydrogenerators produce an estimated 2,000 watts of power, which converts to roughly 50 kWh of electricity per day (24 hours of sailing).

At a lower speed of 4.75 knots, the generators produce 350 watts, which comes down to 8.4 kWh of energy over a period of 24 hours – only 1/6th of the maximum required energy. On the other hand, at higher speeds, the hydrogenerators produce more energy than necessary. At a speed of almost 10 knots they provide 120 kWh/day, at a speed of 12 knots this becomes 182 kWh/day – 3.5 times more than needed.

Saltwater batteries

According to her hull speed, the EcoClipper500 will be able to sail a little over 16 knots at absolute top speed – this is double the minimum speed required to generate enough power. Achieving this speed will be rare, because it needs calm seas and strong winds from the right direction. Nevertheless, in good wind conditions, the ship easily sails fast enough to produce all electricity for use on board.

Good wind conditions can last for days, especially on the oceans, where winds are more powerful and predictable than on land. However, they are not guaranteed, and the ship will also sail at lower speeds, or find herself in becalmed conditions – when hydrogenerators are as useless as solar panels in the middle of the night.

Because she has no engine, the EcoClipper500 faces a double problem when there’s no wind: she cannot continue her voyage, and she has no energy to maintain life on board. The first problem is easily solved but the second is not. Life on board goes on, and so there is a continued need for power. To provide this, the ship needs energy storage.

To cover the needs for three days drifting in cold weather, an energy storage of 150 kWh would be required, not taking into account charge and discharge losses. Five or seven days of energy use on-board would require 250 to 350 kWh of storage. For emergency use, another 25 kWh of energy storage is needed.

Scraping the deck onboard the ‘Parma’. Alan Villiers, 1932-33.

Not having an engine, generator and fuel tank saves space on board, but this advantage can be quickly lost again when one starts to add batteries for the hydrogenerators. Lithium-ion batteries are very compact, but they cannot be considered sustainable and bring safety risks. That’s why Jorne Langelaan and Andrew Simons see more potential in – very aptly – saltwater batteries, which are non-flammable, non-toxic, easy to recycle, have wide temperature-tolerance, and can last for more than 15 years. Like the biodigester, they have never been used on a sailing ship before.

Unlike lithium-ion batteries, saltwater batteries are large and heavy. At 60 kg per kWh of storage capacity, a 150 kWh battery storage would add a weight of 9 tonnes, while a 350 kWh storage capacity would add 21 tonnes. Still, this compares favourably to the total cargo capacity (500 tonnes), and the batteries can serve as ballast if they are placed in the lower part of the ship’s hull. The space requirements are not too problematic, either. Even a 350 kWh energy storage only requires 14 to 29m3 of space, which is small compared to the 880m3 of cargo volume.

The emissions that are produced by the manufacturing of the hydrogenerators, biodigester, and batteries are not included in the life cycle analysis of the ship, because there are no data available. However, these emissions must be relatively small. Hydrogenerators have much higher power density than wind turbines, and thus a relatively low embodied energy. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation learns that the carbon footprint of 350 kWh saltwater batteries is around 70 tonnes of CO2. [7]

Human Power

There’s another renewable power source and energy storage on board of the EcoClipper, and that’s the humans themselves. Like the pellet stove and the biodigester, the use of human power could reduce the need for electricity. Nowadays, cargo ships and most large sailing ships have electric or hydraulic winches, pumps, and steering gear, saving manual labour at the expense of higher energy use. In contrast, EcoClipper sticks to manual handling of the ship as much as possible.

Crew at the capstan of the Parma, weighing anchor. Alan Villiers, 1932-33.

Simons and Langelaan are also considering the addition of a few rowing machines, coupled to generators, to produce emergency power. Two rowing machines could provide roughly 400 watts of power. If they are operated around the clock in shifts, they could supply the ship with an extra 9.6 kWh of energy per day (ignoring energy losses) – one fifth of the total maximum electricity use.

In fact, as I tell Simons and Langelaan ten rowing machines operated continually in shifts would provide as much power as the hydrogenerators at a speed of 7.5 knots. If there are 60 people on board, and everybody would generate power for less than one hour per day, no hydrogenerators and batteries would be needed at all. “A very interesting thought”, answers Simons, “but what impression would we be painted with?”

Hot Showers?

Even with a biodigester, hydrogenerators, batteries, and rowing machines, the passengers and crew on board the EcoClipper500 would be far short of luxurious, and perhaps too short of comfortable for some. For example, if 60 people on board the ship would take a daily hot shower – which requires on average 2.1 kilowatt-hours of energy and 76.5 litres of water on land – total electricity use per day would be 126 kWh, more than double the energy the ship produces at a speed of 7.5 knots.

The ship could supply this energy at a higher sailing speed, but there would also be a need for 4,590 liters of water per day, a quantity that could only be produced from seawater – a process that requires a lot of energy. Even a crew of 12 taking a daily hot shower would require 25.2 kWh of energy per day, half of what the hydrogenerators produce at a sailing speed of 7.5 knots. The Bark Europa is the only sailing ship mentioned in this article that has hot showers in every (shared) cabin, but it is also the ship with the biggest generators and the highest fuel use.

On the forecastle head of the Parma in fine weather. Image by Alan Villiers, 1932.

Andrew Simons: “On the EcoClipper500 there needs to be a manageable compromise between energy use and comfort. Energy use on board will have to be actively managed. Resources are finite, just like for the planet. In many ways the ship is a microcosm of challenges that the wider world has to face and find solutions to.”

Jorne Langelaan: “At sea you are in a different world. It doesn’t matter anymore if you can take a daily shower or not. What matters are the people, the movements of the ship, and the vast wilderness of ocean around you”.

Measuring the right things

This article has compared the EcoClipper500 sailing ship with the average container ship, bulk carrier, and airplane in terms of emissions per tonne- or passenger-kilometer. However, these values are abstractions that obscure much more important information: the total emissions that are produced by all passengers and all cargo, over all kilometres.

The international ocean freight trade increased from 4 billion tonnes of cargo in 1990 to 11.2 billion tonnes in 2019, resulting in more than 1 billion tonnes of emissions. International air passenger numbers grew from 1 billion in 1990 to 4.5 billion in 2019, resulting in 915 million tonnes of emissions. Consequently, lowering the emissions per tonne- and passenger-kilometre is neither a necessity nor a guarantee for a reduction in emissions.

If we cut international cargo traffic more than fivefold, and passenger traffic more than tenfold, then the emissions of all container ships and airplanes would be lower than the emissions of all sailing ships carrying 11.2 billion tonnes of cargo and 4.5 billion of passengers. Vice versa, if we switch to sailing ships, but keep on transporting more and more cargo and passengers across the planet, we will eventually produce just as much in emissions as we do today with fossil fuel powered transportation.

The mizzen of the ‘Grace Harwar’; view aft from the main crosstrees. Alan Villiers, 1932-33.

Of course, none of this would ever happen. The amount of cargo that was traded across the oceans in 2019 equals the freight capacity of 22.4 million EcoClippers. Assuming the EcoClipper500 can make 2-3 trips per year, we would need to build and operate at least 7.5 million ships, with a total crew of at least 90 million people. Those ships could only take 0.5 billion passengers (12 passengers and 8 trainees per ship), so we would need millions of ships and crew members more to replace international air traffic.

We should not be fooled by abstract relative measurements, which only serve to keep the focus on growth and efficiency.

All of this is technically possible, and as we have seen, it would produce less in emissions than the present alternatives. However, it’s more likely that a switch to sailing ships is accompanied by a decrease in cargo and passenger traffic, and this has everything to do with scale and speed. A lot of freight and passengers would not be travelling if it were not for the high speeds and low costs of today’s airplanes and container ships.

It would make little sense to transport iPhones parts, Amazon wares, sweatshop clothes, or city trippers with sailing ships. A sailing ship is more than a technical means of transportation: it implies another view on consumption, production, time, space, leisure, and travel. For example, a lot of freight now travels in different directions for each next processing stage before it is delivered as a final product. In contrast, all sail cargo companies mentioned in this article only take cargo that cannot be produced locally, and which is one trip from producer to consumer. [8]

This also means that even if sailing ships have diesel engines on board, they would still bring a significant decrease in the total emissions for freight and passenger traffic, simply because they would reduce the absolute number of passengers, cargo, and kilometers. We should not be fooled by abstract relative measurements, which only serve to keep the focus on growth and efficiency.


Notes

[1] Between 1978 and 2004, the Avontuur was operated as sail cargo vessel under Captain Paul Wahlen. The Apollonia, originally built in 1946, is another cargo sailing ship in operation since 2014. It is 19.5 metres long and carries 10 tonnes of cargo.

[2] Very recently, Grain de Sail was buillt and launched for Trans-Atlantic shipping of wine and cocoa. She is a modern sailing ship without an engine, built from aluminium, and can take 35 tonnes of cargo.

[3] Andrew Simons: “There are plenty historical sailing ships, but either very costly to get into service as a regulatory compliant cargo vessel, because they are still used for other purposes, or not suitable.”

[4] Unfortunately the envelope got lost.

[5] In the case of the EcoClipper, most of the emissions are produced during the construction of the ship, while in the case of bulk carriers and container ships, they are mainly produced during operation and fuel production.

[6] The largest container ships now take 190,000 tonnes of cargo.

[7] There is not much data available on saltwater batteries, but they are less energy-intensive to build than many other types of batteries. The calculation is based on an estimate of 66 kg CO2/kWh of storage capacity and three generations of batteries over a period of 50 years. 

[8] Almost one third of all cargo transported are fossil fuels themselves.

[9] The study can be downloaded when you subscribe to EcoClipper’s newsletter. The research is based on a typical life cycle analysis, but note that this is not a peer reviewed study.

The Northeast Grain Race

A Blog Post by Derek Ellard

The Hudson River Maritime Museum, in cooperation with the Center for Post Carbon Logistics and the Northeast Grainshed Alliance, will be conducting a Grain Race in May of 2022. Contestants in four capacity categories will vie for the highest score when moving cargoes of grain from growers to producers and users such as brewers and maltsters across New England, New York, and New Jersey. Each Ton-Mile of cargo moved earns one point, but 5 points are lost for each liter of fuel, or 10 kWh of power taken from the grid.

Based on the Great Grain and Tea Races of the 19th century, conducted by ships sailing from Australia and China to England, but adapted to facing the current climate crisis, this race is designed to add some drama and interest to the topics of local food systems and food transportation.

Each contestant set can enter a single cargo voyage during the month of May 2022, using the indicated Google Form, which will be verified by a panel of judges. Winners will be published on the 15th of June, and prizes awarded thereafter.

The rules and current Directory of Participants and Supporting Organizations can be accessed here. Those interested in participating can have themselves added to the directory through the provided contact link in the document, while those with questions can contact the Hudson River Maritime Museum for further information.

Blog Post

The Northeast Grain Race is many things, a history lesson, an “all things considered” invitation, a competition and an opportunity to make a difference but it also highlights another race – a race against time.  The world urgently needs initiatives like this to make us sit up and take a good look at what we all take for granted – the food in our local store and how it gets there. To put it bluntly, we must find better ways to put food on the table without destroying the farms that grow it, and recent disasters are surely stark reminders that we’re rapidly running out of time.  The good news is this is a race we can win, we can come out on top if we apply ourselves to this, The Race Of Our Lives. In our marine team, we have access to the best of history, the best technology and the combined expertise of the best Maritime Minds and Lateral Thinkers so the odds are good – we can win this one!

This race could herald a new era as the seeds of a new ocean order come to fruition – history will be written. ) we are evolving to a point where we will wield real power. Power to initiate sensible change as we jointly reject the old obsolete ways of the past and embrace the new ways of the past – the abundant natural capital of wind and sun re-interpreted for the 21st century.

The power to commission a new generation of better cargo ships, clean, efficient and profitable ships driven by wind and sun, is within our grasp. Our time is now.

As an Australian member of this group of visionary minds, my own contribution is both modest yet my aims are global. The principles are simple – take the best of the old and press a big refresh button. Our small sailing ketches and cargo schooners would not, at first glance, look out of place moored to a 19th century wharf, but look closer and you will see that every single component of every one of our boats is upgraded. We’ll refine the time-honoured sailplans, upgrade all the gear and build in electric auxiliaries.  A new generation of sailmakers will weave their composite spells, new alloys like Scandium will be extruded for our spars and our underwater lines will cleave the waters with no oily scum in their wake.

Every aspect of the power delivery systems is designed for efficiency. Form Energy’s new generation iron-air batteries show great promise as ballast with benefits, new pumps and fridge compressors will cut power consumption by half – Magtor take a bow, and hats off to the Alpha 311 creators for their innovative roadside wind generators, we have designated spaces for them on board. There’s high-performance, self-lubricating bearings for props, rudders and dagger boards. All this and up to 36 TEUs in the holds, that’s 800 tonnes or 1,400 cubic metres (49,440 cubic feet) in our new Schooner. Food on the table without trashing the trade routes.

Our new wind ships are freighters, feeders and short sea traders with a good attitude, not afraid to exploit the best of the new but built on the solid, risk-averse foundations of the world’s maritime history, a history with a particularly rich vein running right through the North Eastern States

This business model only takes us so far however, you are not going to power a full-sized container ship with solar panels over the cargo hatches but our C100 Ketch will generate 12kW on a good day and power the inboard electric engines in the calms to help keep the owner’s accountant happy. And there’s the business case in a nutshell – free fuel, there for the harnessing.  I’ll gladly leave the development of the mega ships to those best qualified for the job but America and indeed the whole planet will always need small ships, new generation zero-carbon square riggers for the trade winds and new schooners, sailing barges and cutters for the rivers, estuaries and islands.

So what’s the big idea then? Where do we go from here?

Back to future I say, and I take my cue from the amazing World War 2 Liberty Ship program initiated by good old-fashioned US entrepreneurs and an enlightened government applying Henry Ford’s mass-production techniques to the slipways. The current war threatens annihilation so we’d better get down to it. We need mass-produced sail and sun driven ships by the thousand. We will need the discipline and strategy of the military, the precision of robotics and the hard work of the Nation’s best shipwrights and we need them now.

So what’s stopping us? Capital. Where there’s a will there’s a way and we have the will already. We need to pool our abundant resources, take a collective deep breath and speak up – loud and clear. It’s no longer a case of “THEY SHOULD DO SOMETHING!” Protest is past, action is present, WE will do something, our voices must ring out in the boardrooms of the powerful. The message is crystal clear, free fuel can no longer be ignored and the starting gun for the future-proof shipping race has already been fired – the winds of change are here!

The author:

Derek Ellard is an Australian boat builder and designer at Go Sail Cargo.  He has designed “purpose built” “electric clipper” sail cargo vessels ranging in size from 24’ to 180’.  Derek has been working with the Center for Post Carbon Logistics, The Schooner Apollonia, the Hudson River Maritime Museum, and Sustainable Hudson Valley as part of an effort to R&D. design, finance, and build 5 new ships including an ocean-going sail cargo vessel to be locally built in a Hudson Valley shipyard to complement the movement of goods and people to and from the Caribbean, New York Harbor, and the Hudson Valley in a carbon constrained future. Derek can be reached at derek@scruffie.com.

Towards A Food Movement Movement.

A Blog Post by Steven Woods. Mr. Woods earned his master’s degree in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Prescott College in 2021, with an undergraduate degree in History from LeMoyne College. He has worked in museums for over 20 years and is making a career transition to the sustainability field after 6 years in the US Airforce. He is presently the Solaris Coordinator at the Hudson River Maritime Museum.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: A shorter, slightly less technical version of this blog was originally posted by the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s History Blog. As theMuseum and The Center for Post Carbon Logistcs have different missions, the publication of two different versions was deemed appropriate.

I’m willing to bet a lot of people clicked this article thinking something along the lines of “How about ‘Towards Hiring A Proofreader, Eh?!'” Despite this, the title is accurate: The Food Movement lacks any real vision of how food will move in future from the farm gate to the citizen’s fridge. I am very much talking about a social movement concerned with the physical movement of food.

We could also call such a movement by other names: “Tucker Transit To-Do,” “Respect For Refreshment Relocation,” “Comestible Conduct Concern,” “Victual Voyage Verification,” and “The Food Flow Front” were all suggested to friends before I was summarily kicked out of their house. While “Whence The Vittles?!” was a personal favorite, it seems these are mostly just good ways to make enemies and alienate people while not getting your point across in a helpful way. Thus, we are left with the boring but utilitarian name of The Food Movement Movement.

There are a lot of studies out there about regional food self sufficiency, some dating from the 19th century, and others from just a few years ago. The topic of food sovereignty has been a matter of debate since the 17th century, and usually comes to the fore during and after armed conflicts and other crises which might result in embargos or other interruptions to the food supply, such as Brexit quite recently. Agriculture and food security have long been considered matters of national security and tools of foreign policy, and in war many blockades specifically target food movement into and within enemy nations as a way of inflicting losses and destroying the enemy’s will to continue the conflict..

Far fewer studies actually touch upon how food is supposed to move between its points of origin and consumption within a peacetime food system model. Even fewer touch upon how this can be done at the necessary scale in a post-carbon future.

How food was, is, or will need to be carried over land and sea through the use of self-propelled vehicles, trailers, barges, carts, pack animals, ships, or human powered systems such as bicycles is chronically under studied. A great historical study of this overlooked element of food systems is Walter Hedden’s book “How great cities are fed” from 1929. Without this transportation, food goes to waste and people starve. It is simply impossible for New Englanders to eat food which is sitting in crates on a Texas, Florida, Kansas, or California farm table for lack of transportation capacity. As a result, it is difficult to overcomplicate or underestimate the impact of insufficient transport capabilities on any socio-alimentary system.

New York City Foodshed

With a carbon-constrained future rapidly approaching and demanding significant changes to transportation habits, this issue is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, it is routinely ignored in food system visions, which are normally published without direct and detailed attention to the distance and means by which food will be transported. Take New England, for example: A New England Food Vision by Food Solutions New England hopes to expand agriculture so half of New England’s food is produced within the region by 2060. While laudable and achievable, this publication doesn’t tell us how literally tens of thousands of tons of food per day will arrive in New England from elsewhere, all year round. The study simply assumes there are sufficient transport resources which are independent of petroleum fuel supplies, will not raise the cost of imported food beyond the reach of citizens, and doesn’t rely on similarly vulnerable, scarce, and unpredictable renewable electricity sources. It also expects petroleum-based paved infrastructure, tires, and other supplies underpinning our current transportation system to continue existing in sufficiently decent condition to carry these millions of daily ton-miles across the region and the continent.

None of this should be taken for granted, but it is easy to understand why it is forgotten in our current economy and era of easy access to energy. With cheap fossil fuels, low shipping costs, and a probably misplaced faith in miracle technologies, we as a culture and a nation have a tendency to get carried away with the thought of our current transport system existing forever. It is honestly difficult to imagine anything else, even when you put your mind to it.

Large Sail Freight Vessel

So, the need clearly exists for a Food Movement Movement. But how would it operate? What vehicle could possibly provide New England’s massive import requirements with oil- and electricity-independent, renewable, reliable, and emissions-free transportation without the need for paved infrastructure? The answer isn’t terribly difficult to find for those who have studied the region’s history: Sailing Vessels.

Visit any one of the dozens of Maritime Museums in New England, and you can see there is plenty of tradition, knowledge, and capacity to supply New England’s food imports by sail freight. By my calculations (Pages 74-78 Here), a mere 3,000 ships and 18,000 sailors would be able to meet this demand with room to spare for a small amount of delays, time off, and some commodities I hadn’t included in the original math. This is with small vessels, too: A ship of only 111.5 tons cargo capacity, with a crew of 6.5 sailors was used as the rule.

Sail Training Vessel with Cadets

It is eminently possible to build, launch, and crew these vessels over the next 40 years, while creating tens of thousands of jobs. It is also more than possible to use existing training infrastructure from organizations such as Tall Ships America, US Sailing, and The American Sailing Association to ensure a sufficient pool of skilled windjammer sailors are at hand to take them over the seas.

This fleet only supplies the import needs of New England. The Coastal Trade in New England is prime territory for exploitation by enterprising Yankee Sailors, due to the historical settlement patterns of the region. Dozens of small ports and harbors can become points of carbon free shipping within the region, as was seen with the Vermont Sail Freight Project and Maine Sail Freight. These projects have shown the way to a Slow Food Movement Movement, though some brokerages and other infrastructure will need to be built to support this type of transportation. This type of business pattern change is a minor thing in all reality, and can be accomplished if we set some Yankee determination and ingenuity to work on it.

Tres Hombres Sail Freight Vessel

Far larger areas than just New England can be served by Sail Freight: Cities and towns along all four of the USA’s coastlines (Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes) can benefit from Sail Freight, as can the massive regions of the midwest served by our over 12,000 miles of inland waterways. As with any other such infrastructure, ports, harbors, anchorages, channels, locks, dams, sluces, dry docks, weirs, inclined planes, and shipyards must be maintained every year, fully funded, and cared for. However, unlike other infrastructure investments, they are long term, lasting up to or in excess of 50 years for locks, and support carbon free shipping in the place of resource-intensive gas, diesel, and electric powered vehicles.

As we think of Slow Food, we should keep in mind the importance of moving that food around the block and around the world as sustainably as it was grown. With a bit of planning, civic involvement, prudence, and forethought, far more than just the slow food movement can benefit from the slow movement of food.

Sail Freight Revival

A Master’s Thesis by Steven Woods

This article is a summary of the Steven Woods’ Master’s Thesis: “Sail Freight Revival: Methods of calculating fleet, cargo, and labor needs for supplying cities by sail.” Master’s Thesis. Prescott College, 2021. The full thesis can be read Here.

Solar Electric USCG Inspected passenger vessel Solaris

Steven Woods earned his master’s degree in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Prescott College in 2021, with an undergraduate degree in History from LeMoyne College. He has worked in museums for over 20 years and is making a career transition to the sustainability field after 6 years in the US Airforce. He is presently the Solaris Coordinator at the Hudson River Maritime Museum.

Ssil Freight Schooner Apollonia

Sail Freight is an ancient, proven, and fuel-independent means of transportation for both cargo and people. At scale, it could easily provide a means of provisioning cities across the world with food and other essential goods, while avoiding the use of strategic materials such as lithium, cobalt, biofuels, solar panels, electricity, and copper which are needed for the land-based energy transition. The challenge of moving to a sustainable transportation system is of critical importance, and the need to maintain a sufficient transportation capacity for food is literally a matter of life and death.

Sail Freight Vessel Tres Hombres

Sail Freight has gained popularity and visibility as a means of near zero carbon transport, and justifiably so. As complex Sail Freight networks have existed for at least 4,000 years in the Mediterranean, and possibly as long as 40,000 years in the South Pacific, the art of sailing is not new, and does not require complex or energy intensive technologies. Once a sail freight vessel is launched, the carbon emissions from the vessel are nearly zero, and service lives can cover several decades. As 90% of the world’s commerce moves by sea, and modern container ships normally burn over 100 tons of heavy fuel oil per day on their voyages, sail freight seems a good means of cleaning up global commerce.

Until recently, it seems no one has examined the scale at which sail freight must be adopted to fulfill these hopes and aspirations, nor has anyone looked at the auxiliary challenges of adopting sail freight, such as the capacity available to train windjammer sailors, build ships, and so on. Other challenges arise simultaneously to fleet capacity: Food systems and diets must change, warehouses be revived and staffed, superfluous shipping avoided, and foodsheds altered, while regulations change and physical infrastructure needs to be modified. Without a systems view of the whole readoption of sailing freight; any discussion thereof is unlikely to grasp the magnitude of the task at hand.

Black Seal unloading in Brooklyn

The first step in such a process is establishing a level of supply needed in a given city, which in our case with be the New York Metro Area. To survive, the city must have 2.5 kilograms of food per person daily. With a population of some 20,000,000 people, the New York Metro Area needs 50,000 metric tons of food per day, at a minimum, to prevent starvation. This gives us our daily requirement but does not give the full picture. A representative model of the NYMA Foodshed must be established, and the travel times from the food’s origin to destination must be calculated, alongside time for loading and unloading, as well as time for the ship to return to the origin for its next cargo.

The table below gives one such model for the New York Metro Area, at two levels of supply, using relatively small vessels, and illustrates the challenge before us quite well.

As can be seen, even at the lowest possible level of supply, it would require nearly 10,000 ships and 65,000 sailors to supply New York with food, and this without allowing time for crew rest, delays, or ship maintenance. At our current pace of launching Sail Freight Vessels, it would take near 44,500 years to build such a fleet. If we put all the shipyards in the US to work on the problem, however, it could be accomplished in as little as 13 years. While this feat would only be a start, as other cities will need their own fleets, these figures show the scale of the problem we are confronted with, and that it can in fact be solved quickly and effectively.

Of course, ships without trained crews are useless. The time to train windjammer sailors must also be considered. With an average program able to train around 650 sailors in a given year, the number of training program years needed to train the NYMA fleet’s crew requirement would be some 100 years, though with 8 such programs running concurrently this could also be accomplished in less than 15 years. The chart below shows the relationship between training program years and shipyard years and demonstrates that training a sufficient number of sailors will likely take longer than the construction of a sufficient number of vessels for the mission at hand.

sail training vessel

These figures all rely on a “Survey Average Vessel” of 111.25 tons capacity, and 6.5 crew members on average. These would be relatively small vessels, and larger vessels will need fewer of both ships and crew to give the same Fleet Tonnage. It is likely in the beginning of sail freight’s revival that small vessels will be involved, both reclaimed and newly built, which will have larger crew requirements and lower tonnages than the model here portrays. It is worth taking a comprehensive look at the current sail training resources in the US and subsidizing the training of windjammer sailors and captains as soon as practicable.

In the case of Sail Freight, fuel or energy efficiency is not applicable in the same way as with conventional transportation. The appropriate metric of efficiency is “Tons Per Sailor” as the major cost is labor. The higher the tons per sailor, the lower the cost of moving cargo becomes, and the large the vessel, the greater the tons per sailor. Further, this metric is effected by rig, as seen below.

Sloops and Scchooners fore and aft rigs

Through the intelligent choice of rig for specific applications, crew requirements can be brought down somewhat as larger vessels proliferate. Fore-and-Aft rigged vessels such as sloops, schooners, and brigantines generally have a smaller crew and are well suited to the coastal trading which will likely constitute much of a sail freight food movement system. Barks, Ships, and very large schooners will also likely see use on longer routes with far more cargo, but moderately sized crews.

Other challenges are present for reviving sail freight. Without substantial changes bringing the external costs of road and fossil fueled transport into the economic equations through weight-distance, tire, fuel, and carbon taxes, sail freight will remain economically uncompetitive excepting on very long routes with high-value cargos. As the price of fossil fueled transport rises, this competitiveness will even out, and short sea shipping under sail will most likely gain traction in the economic mix.

truck pollution

There are significant benefits to moving to sail freight for climate policy which makes the case for its adoption despite these challenges. It has been calculated that at a minimum, more than 220,000 tons of CO2e could be eliminated from US transportation emissions through supplying the NYMA with food via Sail Freight. This model assumes that all food is brought via 10,000 TEU container ships, which can move some 380 ton-miles on a liter of diesel fuel. Trucking, by comparison, nets only 1.58, while trains can get up to about 118-ton miles per liter of diesel fuel. If the latter number was calculated for trucking emissions instead of conventional maritime transport, it would be some 21 billion liters of diesel fuel and 63,560,087,101 Tons of CO2e avoided annually.  This amounts to some 362,000 barrels of oil per day.

pollution from ships

Alongside these benefits, shifting cargo to waterways will reduce congestion, wear, and tear on highway and rail systems, thus likely increasing the overall fuel efficiency of these same systems. Biofuels made from food wastes will be freed for use in supplying cities without nearby port facilities and demands on the grid for electrical power to fuel electric trucks will be lessened. In addition, the number of electric trucks to be built will also decline, making electrification faster and simpler in the long run.

Vermont Sail Freight Ceres

There are other advantages to Sail Freight which are less obvious than the environmental benefits and the challenge of training crews and building ships. For example, small vessels can be built inexpensively and with little needed in the way of facilities. Small ships can be built in the tradition of the Farmer’s Ships of the Aland Islands, which was effectively a combination of bot community supported agriculture and community supported shipping. Ceres of the Vermont Sail Freight Project is an example of just such a vessel, which made several successful voyages from Lake Champlain to New York City for the mere cost of some $20,000. With more advanced designs becoming available, planned for mass production and low cost in the style of the liberty ships of World War Two, these higher-capital ships will be in financial reach of cooperatives all around the four coastlines of the US and abroad.

Schooner Apollonia

This more democratic ownership model for transport, independent of fossil fuels, removes major costs for farmers in rural areas, especially as the cost of fuel and trucking rises. This can have the effect of lowering or stabilizing food prices for citizens while keeping more money moving to farmers and sailors. This is of mutual benefit to both city and countryside, clearly, but also reduces the power of banks and major corporations in both the transportation and food systems.

NYC Foodshed

Despite these benefits, there are many social and cultural adaptations which must be made to adapt to a Sail Freight future. The idea of constantly having fresh produce, in the off-season from 3,000 and more miles away will have to be abandoned. Diets must become more regionalized and localized, and the use of preserved foods instead of fresh in agricultural off seasons will become the rule. With innovative growing techniques, green houses, and other adaptations, there are likely to be small supplies of fresh foods in off seasons, but New York is unlikely to have shiploads of citrus arrive in good condition from Tampa after over a week in transit. Citrus juices, jams, preserves, and other shelf-stable confections will have to take the place of these foods where possible, and processing happen near the point of origin.

Next-day delivery will be impossible, and Just-In-Time delivery systems will be a thing of the past, replaced by acres of warehousing. wastes reduced, and material goods designed for repair instead of disposal. Superfluous Single-Use items such as coffee cups, plates, flatware, and bags should be banned on both environmental and logistical grounds. If every member of the NYMA used a single disposable coffee cup weighing 18 grams per day, the mass of cargo would amount to over 360 tons daily, or 131,400 tons of cargo in the year. If manufactured in Shanghai, 368 Survey Average Ships would need to be in constant motion between the two ports to maintain this entirely unnecessary practice.

Sail Freight Vessel Tres Hombres
Neoline Sail Freight

The future of Sail Freight is promising. Through the combination of modern knowledge and technology with proven older forms, a sustainable way of keeping cities alive can be created. While the challenge of building a Sail Freight future is certainly not easy, it can be done if we put our money, our time, and our backs to the task at hand. So doing could significantly alter the course of climate adaptations and climate change mitigation, provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, and democratize the economy in many beneficial ways. Given the gravity of our situation and the benefits to be gained, the case for Sail Freight should be clear to all.

Building Future Proof Liberty Ships

Locally built, from locally sourced and recycled materials, crewed with locally trained mariners, home ported along the Hudson, the Harbor, and the canals, carrying locally grown, locally processed, and locally manufactured goods – with liberty from fossil fuels, these future proof ships will be a positive disruption to the status quo.

Future Proof Liberty Ships Brutally Simple

WW II Liberty Ship

Liberty ships were a class of cargo ships built in the United States during World War II The design was adopted by the United States for its simple, low-cost construction. Mass-produced on an unprecedented scale, the Liberty ship came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial output. The immensity of the effort, the number of ships built, the role of women and minority shipwrights in their construction, and the survival of some far longer than their original five-year design life are a testament to what is possible to do when confronted with an emergency. At the peak of production yards were turning out 2-3 ships a day with a 40-day build time.

To meet the emergent climate crisis, and to confront the immense carbon pollution of the existing fossil fueled international and domestic fleet, “future proof” Liberty from Fossil Fuel Ships will be built in US yards to enable us to continue the movement of goods and people from place to place in a carbon constrained future.

These ships will be brutally simple, but elegant, built by aa new generation of shipwrights to kick start the revival of US flagged ships in international and domestic trade. Using proven construction techniques and tried and true (as well as innovative) sail propulsion/electric propulsion technology these “flagships of the future” will be the first steps in adapting to and mitigating the climate crisis, that in significant part is caused by international and domestic shipping.

Why These Ships and Why Now?

Polluting Ship

The international shipping industry is one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters. If the maritime sector were a country, it would be one of the top six carbon polluters.  The shipping industry has been reluctant to take unilateral leadership on emissions.  The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is puttering around the edges. It recently declined to make a greenhouse gas reduction plan or commitment. 

The Center for Post Carbon Logistics (C4PCL), along with a local, regional, and international coalition posit an alternative.  That alternative is disruptive competition from an emerging suite of technologies – hydrogen, solar, and wind/sail powered shipping on New York waterways.  Water-borne shipping, even now, is dramatically more energy-efficient than its land-based counterpart.  New York, with its network of waterways connecting the Great Lakes to the Hudson, to New York Harbor, and the ocean, has a leadership opportunity in growing this industry.

In New York, achieving the State Climate Act’s goals will require addressing the enormous footprint of transporting goods and people from place to place using fossil fuels.  Building Future Proof Liberty ships in New York Hudson River shipyards is the first step toward a regenerative shipping industry on New York’s canals, the Hudson River, The Harbor, the East Coast, Caribbean, and transatlantic routes.

The Hudson River, a Water Highway

Not so long ago the Hudson River was a bustling highway linking even the smallest communities to a web of regularly scheduled commercial routes. Schooners, sloops, barges, and (much later) steamboats provided a unique way of life for early river town inhabitants. Farmers, merchants, and oystermen relied on this vibrant and diverse fleet of vessels to bring in supplies and deliver their goods to market. This arm-of-the-sea was an integral part of the lives of those who worked New York’s inland waters.

Sloops at Anthon’s Nose

The Hudson River sloop was the main means of transportation on the Hudson River from the early days of Dutch settlement in the 17th century (1600s) until the advent of the steamboat.  Based on a Dutch design, this single-masted sailboat carried passengers and cargoes up and

down the Hudson River between New York and Albany and points in between for over two hundred years From The Hudson River Maritime Museum Blog

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
Ferry Sloop Woody Guthrie

The legacy of these sailing cargo vessels continues in the iconic Sloop Clearwater and the organization that supports it. The “Ferry Sloop” Woody Guthrie is another example of both the historic nature of those ships and the skills that it takes to sail, maintain, and rebuild when necessary. A complete rebuild of the Woody Guthrie, and three restorations of Clearwater were performed at the shipyard at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, in the last few years, by Rondout Woodworking in conjunction with the Museum’s Wooden Boat School staff and volunteers

Precursors, Prototypes, and Disruptors

Vermont Sail Freight, the Vessel Ceres,

“Contrary to the techno-paradise that some expect, my belief is that our future will likely resemble our past, and that we may fall back on proven, low energy approaches to supporting human life that have been historically proven to work.  “Isn’t that pessimistic?” asked the interviewer. I replied that I don’t think so. It is in my view even more pessimistic to imagine a world continuing on the current path, becoming a place in which there is no place for human labor or creativity, where rather than doing things with our backs and hands and minds, we must instead wait passively for conveniences and solutions to be marketed to us. That, to me, is the most depressing future imaginable.” — Erik Andrus Founder the Vermont Sail Freight Project

Vermont Sail Freight Vessel Ceres

While others were writing and talking about reviving sail freight on the Hudson and the Canals, Erik Andrus, a Vermont Rice farmer was building a sailing freight barge. Erik sells baked goods produced on the farm at farmers markets in the Vermont communities adjacent to Lake Champlain and realized that he was delivering the locally produced organic and farm baked goods in a fossil fuel truck. He immediately began to research horse drawn bread trucks and built one.

Taking this idea to the next stage, he envisioned floating his and his neighbors farm goods down the Hudson on rafts until he researched the difficulties of doing so and conceived of the Vermont Sail Freight Project. Beginning in 2012, the Vermont Sail Freight volunteers, led by Erik, designed, and built a 15-ton capacity sailing barge and raised funds for her construction from grants, donations, and pre-sale of cargo items.  The Ceres was launched on July 27, 2013 and was ready to journey downriver with cargo in October 2013.  This was made possible in part by the participation of Greenhorns, USA and by the support of the Eastman and Waterwheel Foundations.  In October 2013, $56,000 worth of products from small farms in the north were delivered and distributed along the Champlain-Hudson waterway at farmers’ markets and through events and wholesale accounts. Although Ceres’ last voyage was in 2014 its legacy and Erik’s vision is the foundation on which moving goods and people in a carbon constrained future will be built.

Eriemax

In 2011 two cities on the Erie / NYS Barge Canal were among U.S communities that lost the most population the previous decade. Naval architect, Geoff Uttmark’s NYSERDA funded Eriemaxship design and HEFTTCo. business plan was developed ” to stimulate growth by creating a green, lower cost trade route using ship-kit, electric powered, owner-operated small freight ships.”

Although the ship itself was not built, the rigorous analysis, of the cost of building, cargo handling, crewing, and port infrastructure requirements, are still viable models for the evaluation of wind and alternative fuel cargo carrying on the Hudson, and Canals.

Uttmark’s Ship Shares initiative is a comprehensive conduit for maritime development, education, networking, and support of not-for-profits inspiring tomorrow’s marine industry leaders.

ERiemax HEFTCO Business Plan Summary

“Our Vision is to lead impact investing in the marine shipping space. We do this by leading or joining design of seaborne transport initiatives that have strong social and environmental merit in addition to positive traditional financial metrics, and by research, design and identification of potential “game-changer” technologies that can span multiple shipping sectors. Our emphasis in all endeavors is to advance local or regional social benefit projects or disruptive technologies with world-class expertise and world-wide capital to maximize the impact of invested human and financial resources.”

The Schooner Apollonia and the Solar Electric Solaris

The Schooner Apollonia is engaged in commerce under sail on the Hudson River and New York Harbor.

Schooner Apollonia

Apollonia is a 64-foot steel-hulled schooner built in Baltimore, MD in 1946. She is designed to move efficiently through the water, powered by a traditional gaff-rig sail plan designed by naval architect J Murray Watts.  With a 15’ beam and rugged steel construction, she’s a stout work boat capable of carrying 20,000 lbs. of cargo. Being a schooner, the crew requirements are smaller, and the variety of sails gives us flexibility for different conditions that we will encounter on the river.

On her most recent trip to New York City from Hudson, she carried a mixed load of cargo including bags of grains and malted barley for breweries along the River. When access to a dock was limited, cargo bikes were used for “last mile logistics.” On her return trip she carried a variety of French wines and chocolates cross docked from the ocean sailing freighter Grain de Sail during a meet up in Brooklyn. Securing funds for needed upgrades, and financial stability is a primary goal of the Liberty from Fossil Fuel Ships initiative.

The Hudson River Maritime Museum’s solar electric Coast Guard inspected passenger vessel Solaris has proven its seaworthiness and efficacy over the last three seasons. Solaris is a classic “launch” design adapted to her 21st century solar electric propulsion system. Solaris is a pioneering example of near future ferries, larger passenger vessels, and self-propelled canal barges. Conceived of by David Borton, designed by Dave Gerr, and built by Rondout Woodworking at the Wooden Boat School, she is the working prototype for a class of solar electric commercial vessels.

Solar Electric Passenger Vessel Solaris

The Hudson River Maritime Museum recently received a grant to build a dock in Rhinecliff, NY’s Amtrak train station to begin a ferry service to Kingston and The new State Park in North Kingston. Support for Solaris’ maintenance and financial security is also a priority of the Liberty from Fossil Fuel Ships Initiative.

Liberty from Fossil Fuel Ship Prototypes

Five prototypes are proposed to be R&D’d, designed, financed, and built in Hudson Valley, NY shipyards: examples include, but are not limited to, a 180′ “short sea,” coastal, transatlantic, and/or Caribbean electric clipper, a 65′ river and coastal Sharpie Schooner, a “39′-45′ pick up of the sea,” “Eriemax” 80′ River, Canal, and Coastal Sail Freighter, and a solar electric canal barge.

180’Electric Clipper

65’Sharpie Schooner

39′ – 45′ “pickup of the sea”
Eriemax 80′ River, Canal, and Coastal Sail/Electric Freighter Geoff Uttmark design
Solar Electric Canal Barge

Look for Blog Posts and Articles on R & D, design, financing, and building these prototypes and a March 2022 Sail Freight Conference at the Hudson River Maritime Museum.

New age of sail looks to slash massive maritime carbon emissions

Originally Posted on Mongabay News & Inspiration, Mongabay Series: Covering the CommonsOceansPlanetary Boundaries March 15 2021, Author Andrew Willner

Mongabay video New Age of Sail is available here.

Schooner Apollonia a Hudson River Sail Freight vessel operating now

  • If ocean shipping were a country, it would be the sixth-largest carbon emitter, releasing more CO2 annually than Germany. International shipping accounts for about 2.2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N. International Maritime Organization.
  • But change is on the way. Wind, solar electric, and hydrogen-powered ships offer innovative low- or no-carbon alternatives to fossil fuel-powered cargo vessels, with wind about to make a huge comeback in shipping, say experts. New experimental sail designs include hard sails, rotating vertical cylinders, and even kites.
  • Today, startup companies like Fair Transport (with its retrofitted wooden vessels Tres Hombres and Nordlys); modest sized proof-of-concept firms, with purpose-built vessels like Grain de Sail; and large cargo ship retrofits and purpose-built vessels like Neoline’s new large cargo vessels, are starting to address CO2 emissions.
  • Through the late 1940s, huge steel sailing ships carried cargos on some ocean routes. By 2030 — less than 100 years since the end of the last great era of sail — fossil fuel-powered cargo vessels may give way to high- and (s)low-tech sailing ships thanks to a revolution in energy technology, that reduces shipping costs with less emissions.

In January 2010, an “unpowered” wooden sailing vessel more than 70 years old, the Tres Hombres, arrived in Port-au-Prince carrying desperately needed earthquake relief supplies from Dutch humanitarian organizations for the people of Haiti. Although not the first contemporary version of “green logistics,” Tres Hombres — propelled by a trio of clean energy technologies: sails, wind turbines and recycled vegetable oil — epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit of today’s retro-revolutionary sail freight movement.

To many maritime experts, Tres Hombres’ cross-ocean journey stands out as a symbol of the rebirth of cargo-carrying wind power — incorporating a marriage of old and new technologies becoming a viable alternative to fossil fuel-powered ships on the open sea.

Today’s gigantic diesel fuel-reliant container ships, decks overloaded with cargo, are still a common sight in harbors from New York to Hong Kong. But the days of these gargantuan vessels, driven by massive internal combustion engines, may be numbered.

The engineless modern cargo transport sailing ship Tres Hombres. Image courtesy of Fair Transport.
Sails that don’t look like sails: Wallenius Marine is developing the Oceanbird, able to ship 7,000 cars and trucks across the Atlantic propelled only by high-tech wing sails. Image courtesy of Wallnius Marine.

An economic and climate driven sea change

Despite the present dominance of fossil-fueled cargo ships, it’s well understood by industry insiders that the current maritime logistics system is both aging and fragile.

Fossil fuel transport today is up against a grim carbon reality: if ocean shipping were a country, it would be the sixth-largest carbon emitter, releasing more CO2 annually than Germany. International shipping accounts for about 2.2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N. International Maritime Organization’s most recent data.

This annual surge of atmospheric carbon released by ocean going ships not only worsens climate change — one of nine scientifically defined planetary boundaries (PBs) we now risk overshooting — it also contributes to ocean acidification (a second planetary boundary) which is beginning to seriously impact biodiversity (a third PB). And add to that significant chemical pollution (a fourth planetary boundary) that is emitted from ship smokestacks.

All of these planetary boundaries interrelate and influence one another (negatively and positively): for example, reducing black carbon (or soot), the fine particulate matter emitted from fossil fueled oceangoing vessels could slow global warming somewhat, buying time to implement further steps to reduce carbon emissions.

A loaded fossil fueled container ship docked in Hamburg, Germany. Image found on Visualhunt.

Another problem with today’s vessels: when cargo ships dock, they use auxiliary engines that generate SOx, NOx, CO2 and particulate discharges, while also creating noxious noise and vibrations. (Innovators are already solving this problem with cold ironing, providing shoreside electrical power to ship berths, allowing main and auxiliary engines to be shut down.)

Today’s cargo industry is plagued not only by environmental issues, but by a difficult logistical and economic problem: its current fleet of fossil-fueled container ships are mostly behemoths — with immense carrying capacities. However, the “overcapacity” of these giant ships leaves them without the nimbleness to adapt to unexpected shifts in global supply and demand; the world’s ports and specialized markets could likely be better served, say experts, by smaller, far more fuel-efficient cargo ships.

The current sea cargo system — reliant upon high-priced carbon-based fuels and unstable energy markets; interwoven inextricably into long-distance, globalized world trade; and designed for just-in-time delivery that requires precisely scheduled shipments — is increasingly vulnerable to the vagaries of fossil fuel shortages, price shocks and surges, as well as geopolitical conflict and volatility in the Middle East, Venezuela and elsewhere.

Equally problematic, today’s fossil-fueled ships depend upon an ability to avoid paying for negative externalities such as carbon emissions and environmental pollution, while also being governed by lax international labor, environmental, health, and other agreements.

Winds of change, especially triggered by new international commerce and climate pacts and policies, could soon push us rapidly beyond carbon into a New Age of Sail, with the need for a planet-wide cargo fleet rebuilt from the keel up.

Airbus plans to equip one of its large cargo ships with the Airseas “Seawing,” a sky sail that uses wind power to reduce fossil fuel costs and cut emissions. Image courtesy of AIRSEAS.

Birth pangs for a New Era of Sail

As far back as the 1970s, the global shipping industry began struggling with both its business models and environmental issues. Oil embargoes in 1973-74, the failure of US Lines in 1986, and surging fuel prices in the 1970s and ’80s led some transport companies to start experimenting with sail-assisted technology on tankers and container ships to save costs and reduce emissions. By the 1980s, Japanese shippers had designed new and retrofitted sail-assisted merchant ships.https://www.youtube.com/embed/U250mCuxPPw

In 2018, in response to environmental concerns, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted mandatory measures under an umbrella of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by international shipping: under the IMO’s pollution prevention treaty (MARPOL); the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which is mandatory for new ships; and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP). Many of these mandated changes go into effect by 2030, less than 10 years from now.

An embrace of old technologies, made new

Facing these many challenges, the big question for the cargo industry is: how does it get to a new age of post-carbon shipping and sailing, with the least amount of economic pain?

In fact, change is happening now — fast — as sailing vessels get put on the water by startup companies, like Fair Transport, with its retrofit wooden vessels; by modest sized proof-of-concept companies like the Schooner Apollonia; and by firms with newly built ocean-crossing sailing ships like Grain de Sail; and lastly by large cargo ship companies launching innovative retrofits and purpose-built vessels like Neoline’s new large cargo vessels.Video here about Fairtransport Cargo under sail.

All of these innovators embrace different technological approaches to address the same problems of CO2 emissions, the high cost of fossil fuels, and new global economic and regulatory realities.

Wind propulsion systems cover a wide spectrum in modern commercial shipping,. These range from wind-assisted fossil-fueled vessels (where wind provides auxiliary power), to purely wind-driven ships without auxiliary power, to sailing-hybrid ships where the primary propulsion come from the wind but is augmented by engines to ensure schedules are maintained.

Internationally, the growth in small- to medium-sized sail freight companies has been exponential, with old sailing vessels brought up to modern standards and new ones built. The New Dawn Traders website, for example, includes links to several startup sail cargo ventures:

Fair Transport’s 32-meter (105-foot) schooner Tres Hombres has been sailing emissions-free since December 2009. She maintains a sustainable oceangoing general cargo route between Europe, Atlantic and Caribbean islands, and the Americas. Her cargo capacity tops 35 tons, and she can accommodate a crew of seven professionals and eight trainees. (Training is vital, as today’s sailors need to be taught a combo of yesteryear and cutting-edge sailing skills).

Fair Transport has added to its sailing fleet: Nordlys is a 25-meter (82-foot) ketch, built in the Isle of Wight in 1873 as a fishing trawler; she now carries up to 30 tons of cargo between European ports.

Avontuur-Timbercoast is a two-masted gaff-rigged schooner built in 1920 in the Netherlands, and regarded as one of the last true cargo sailing ships of the 20th century. It’s goal today: “Mission Zero — to eliminate pollution caused by shipping cargo.”

The Sailing Vessel Kwai was built in 1950 as a herring fishing vessel in Bremen, Germany. Refitted, she is 43 meters (140 feet) long and can carry 250 tons. She presently serves as a packet vessel in the tropics, sailing between Hawai‘i and the Cook Islands.

Ceiba-Sail Cargo Inc. transports freight using a sustainable carbon-neutral sailing system. Its first ship, CEIBA, will offer something special to exporters and importers: an eco-friendly means of moving their most important organic, sustainable products.

The Hawila Project also offers an environmentally friendly way of shipping organic goods between small coastal communities, especially European producers. The vessel can transport 55 tons of cargo using only wind power.

Grain de Sail combines the best of old and new. It is a freshly built 24-meter (80-foot), 35-ton-capacity schooner with a state-of-the-art climate- and stability-controlled hull for maintaining fragile goods. Sail powered, it is equipped with cutting-edge navigation technologies and made out of aluminum for a better weight/performance ratio and greater durability. In December 2020, Grain de Sail unloaded a shipment of wine and cognac at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, becoming the first ocean-crossing sail cargo ship to unload cargo in New York since the schooner Black Seal delivered cocoa beans by sail to Mast Brothers chocolate makers in 2011.

Of these startups and proof-of-concept vessels, Jorne Langelaan, a veteran of Fair Transport’s sail cargo venture, may possess the boldest old-new sailing concept. Ecoclipper, when built, will be a big new “square rigger” and full-sized replica of the Dutch cargo ship Noach, built in 1857 — with an equally big mission. “She is to be operated in the deep-sea trade: Trans-Atlantic, Trans-Pacific and around the world,” says her promoter. She’ll be rigged with three square-rigged masts, boasting 930 square meters (10,000 square feet) of sail, “traveling without mechanical propulsion,” and able to transport up to 500 gross register tonnage (GRT) of cargo.

The Alcyone, Jacques Cousteau’s turbo sail ship, a research vessel launched in 1985, and precursor of today’s rotor sail cargo ships. Image courtesy of Cousteau.org.

High-tech innovations

Maybe among the most unique innovations in the cargo shipping sector today are sails that look less and less like traditional sails. Known as sail-assisted or wind-assisted propulsion devices, the concept often is to fit existing fossil-fueled vessels with a variety of new sail technologies that offer a boost in power while cutting carbon emissions.

These cutting-edge approaches include wing sails, which are inflatable; “hard sails” which look like an airplane wing set up vertically; “Flettner” vertical rotor sails that resemble smokestacks (but which use the Magnus effect, a force acting on a spinning body in a moving airstream); the Dynarig, “a state-of-the-art, modern, high-tech rig, relying on the use of cutting edge, high-strength materials currently used on high-performance racing yachts”;  and sail-assist kites or sky sails that look and act like hang gliders, launched from a ship’s bow with a cable to help pull the vessel downwind.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/9ejpyIWINgc

Neoline is a company capitalizing on new sail technology it says is “immediately available and [a] powerful enough solution to propel cargo ships.” The firm is already finding its eco-niche, establishing shipping contracts with tiremaker Michelin and automaker Renault, along with other companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint. The Viking Grace ferry, which sails the Baltic Sea, is equipped with Norsepower’s Flettner rotor sail, which provides clean, auxiliary power. Wallenius Marine is developing the Oceanbird, able to ship 7,000 cars and trucks across the Atlantic propelled only by high-tech wing sails.

These and other innovators have joined together in the International Windship Alliance, a gathering of new technology companies, ship builders, and shippers of all sizes who are changing the face of ocean shipping, replacing smoky fossil-fueled “dinosaurs” with nimble, “back to the future” sailing, sail assist, solarelectric and alternative fuel vessels.https://www.youtube.com/embed/GkTsnjIYJG8

To learn more about the New Age of Sail, look into Jan Lundberg’s Sail Transport Network, Dmitry Orlov’s insightful writings, Gavin Allwright and the International Windship Association, Madadh MacLAine and the Zero Emissions Ship Technology Association, and Di Gilpin’s Smart Green Shipping.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/JFPcZZR7oa8

The New Age of Sail isn’t only evolving on the high seas: Lane Briggs’ Tugantine, Erik Andrus and Vermont Sail Freight, and Maine Sail Freight, are all forerunners of an epochal change underway in the way goods and people are moved along inland rivers and in coastal waters in a post-carbon era.https://www.youtube.com/embed/n-p9akU8MIc

As fossil fuels grow scarce and expensive, sailing ships and alternatively powered vessels will replace fossil-fueled shipping, and the new ideas are seemingly endless: hemp and other cellulose-based plastics can replace fiberglass and other synthetic hull and sail materials; ships will ride above the waves on hydrofoils, maybe replacing airline high-speed passenger service; and many more small river, estuary and ocean ports will be renovated and updated to create an “internet” of coastal and island-linked small- to mid-sized shipping lanes.

New vessels will also require a different type of port: electric and people-powered first- and last-mile logistics, with old skills of seafaring, ship-keeping, and shipbuilding preserved, renewed and intermixed with 21st century know-how.

We are fast entering a world of sail, battery, and hydrogen; cargo shipping beyond carbon.

Before he died in 1947, Gustaf Erikson, who ran a fleet of Baltic Sea windjammers in the Åland Islands, “was fond of telling anyone who would listen that a new golden age for sailing ships was on the horizon: sooner or later, he insisted, the world’s supply of coal and oil would run out, steam and diesel engines would become so many lumps of metal fit only for salvage, and those who still knew how to haul freight across the ocean with only the wind for power would have the seas, and the world’s cargoes, all to themselves.”

That imagined day has nearly arrived.

Andrew Willner is a former boatbuilder, sailing vessel master, and retired NY-NJ Baykeeper, who in 2013-14 was recruited as a volunteer aboard the Vermont Sail Freight sailing barge Ceres built by Erik Andrus in his Vermont barn. The Ceres made two successful voyages from Burlington on Lake Champlain, traveling down the Hudson River to New York City with a shelf-stable cargo of high-value farm products, sold at pop-up markets at ports along the way and at the New Amsterdam Market final destination. Willner is also executive director of the Center for Post Carbon Logistics.

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