Ahoy! Boats, reviews, photography, bikes and an occasional rant

December 26, 2010

SS Conservation


Leica Digilux 2, 90mm f8 @ 640 sec, 100 ISO. ‘Easy Pollution’, bay of St Tropez. October 2005

The Conservation

A controversial yet highly feasible project to reintroduce sailing cargo ships to reduce pollution.

Alan Villiers was an extraordinary man who was witness to the end of an amazing era. The era of the Tall Ships. Aware that this ancient trade and all that hard earned experience learned over centuries was dying out, he wrote book after book and even made some impressive films about his experiences aboard these awesome ocean nomads.

The conclusion that this learned man came to well over fifty years ago was that the square rigged sailing ship of the early 20th century was perfectly evolved to cope with the colossal distances it had to travel and the often brutal conditions it had to meet.

One can easily see why these ships would die out 100 years ago with the oncoming of steam, but the situation is very different today. Could a tall ship be an economic viability in the 21st century? I believe it could. Let me tell you why.

The biggest problem today would be crew. To have to pay 40 odd crew for nigh on a year just wouldn’t be possible, even allowing for the savings made by not having or using an engine. If the crew did not need paying, only feeding, then suddenly it might be possible to turn a profit transporting certain goods around the world.

These free crew would come from many places. It costs the Government a lot of money to put people in prison. For offenders of relatively minor crime could be given a choice. Five years at Her Majesty’s pleasure or one year sailing around Cape Horn delivering goods without polluting. All the countries of the world could participate. It would be a hard life but a fair one. The discipline is hard on a ship but it has to be. This is character building stuff.

Sailing around the world on a sailing ship can only be positive. How can anyone hope to reform or become a better person in jail? Only out on the open sea where reality lurks can you truly find what you are made of.

Since the idea of sailing around the World is very romantic and adventurous, I suspect that there will be no shortage of willing victims. Did I say victims? I meant crew. A long line of adventurers who want to sail the Southern Ocean. For just their food and board and perhaps a small wage, enough to buy small rations above and beyond that provided.

There would also be a huge amount of people wanting to be aboard simply to gain valuable experience. Having held a position of responsibility aboard a square rigger will look superb on your CV. It wasn’t so long ago that sail training like this was compulsory if you wanted to enter the merchant service or navy in many countries. The trouble was, it was too expensive to run ships like this just for training purposes. It didn’t mean that there were not many willing sailors who would love the opportunity to gain a unique experience in a real ship, there just weren’t any ships.

Perhaps berths could even be sold. After all this is a unique experience. It could be billed as eco tourism after all. If this idea is to work, an open mind about exploiting every earning opportunity must be held.

Obviously the ship would need a tough core crew, but any ship needs a basic crew anyway so there is no extra expense here.

Having solved the problem of crew, a very large part of any ship, lets talk about the ship herself. Villiers was of the opinion that the last of the Cape Horners was about as well evolved as any ship could be that had to make those voyages. I propose a four or five masted steel ship, capable of carrying thousands of tons of grain/wood/coal or whatever non urgent produce she can find. She would be modeled on the most successful and consistently fast ships of old with few concessions to modernity.

If she is to be truly effective, she must not have a propulsion engine. The props would cause drag and slow her down under sail. The space needed for an engine and it’s fuel would eat up hold space. Engines are expensive and need careful maintenance and skilled persons to keep them working. They are noisy and they pollute. As she will spend much of her life in mid ocean and only occasionally come to port where tugs will meet her and moor her it seems illogical to fit an engine. The ships of old never had engines. They made their global voyages purely under sail with zero pollution.

Why no engine? Is this not a safety issue? I don’t believe so. A ship like this does not fight the wind, it is blown by it, often going what looks like far out of it’s way simply to keep a favourable wind. It cannot sail like a dinghy so a wise skipper never goes anywhere near a lee shore. Most of the ship’s life is spent mid ocean where there is very little to hit since the steamers all take more direct routes to their destinations and there is almost always some kind of wind blowing. The last Cape Horners managed over 7 knots over the duration of an entire voyage, which might have been 3 or 4 months long. A very impressive figure.

Without an engine, there will be no temptation to motor, you will HAVE to use the weather that you have but imagine what more modern equipment and better weather forecasting could do for a square rigger today. It’s entirely possible and very likely that this figure of 7 knots could be much increased.

The ship, is called The Conservation as it a great name for a pioneering ship. For every trip she does around the world, that’s one less stinky ship burning tons of fuel everyday. This is a bonus and if it could be made to pay, a wonderful lesson to others. So long as the bills are paid, and the ship gets her share it would work.


Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. f16 @ 250 sec ISO 160. Star Clipper in the bay of St Tropez, April 2010.

There are masses of benefits. The government would save money by not putting young offenders in prison. Society will benefit because these young people will re enter society better people more aware of the fact that their actions have an effect on other people, while the whole experience is likely to have a profoundly humbling effect on the offender. Statistically the Government can’t lose as in effect there will be less people in jail which can only look good.

With the biggest part of the expenditure, namely crew, covered, the ship stands a chance of turning a profit delivering non urgent goods around the planet without polluting in the process.

We all know that global warming is affecting us all and we are losing our valuable bio diversity every day. But what can be done? How do we as an ever growing population balance the need for economic growth with sustainability? This is one suggestion.

Since the ship will be often at sea it will be in a great position to report on wildlife such as whales and albatross spotted in rarely visited areas which can be used to allow us to gain a better understanding of our planet, so that we might be in a better position to protect it.

Noise pollution of the oceans is a big deal if you are a whale. Sailing doesn’t make noise. No damage is done by a sailing ships passing. Year after year, decade after decade and mile after endless mile, the sailing ship passes silently and beautifully doing something useful.

Many other scientific observations can be made concerning the weather, sea currents, and temperatures etc that will allow us to build up a greater understanding of the great oceans. They cover 70% of our planet but we still know so little.

How will this be funded initially? What better a project for offsetting carbon, it could be partly funded by the polluters of the world. Partly funded by government, partly funded by shipping companies who have a responsibility to consume less. Perhaps even partly sponsored by the public. Sails could carry logos as advertising as this ship is sure to attract huge media attention.

Governments will make favourable concessions on goods imported by sail. Cheaper docking rates will be made available for sailing ships. With good will and assistance globally this is highly feasible.

Obviously building a strong ship like this will be shockingly costly initially, although without engines, not so much more than a comparable motor ship. If a profit can be turned then the ship will ultimately pay for herself. A ship like this with enough crew to properly take care of it might have a life span longer than half a century which gives plenty of time for the ship to pay herself back. I have no doubt that, cleverly handled, the ship could earn her cost back in less than a decade. Profits could be used to build more such ships. Individual ship owners in the past were able to build up large fleets of ships like this.

Surely, in the long term this idea has great potential for reducing pollution and carbon emissions, not to mention the educational effect and the increase of our scientific knowledge. Villiers and others felt sure that the sailing square rigger couldn’t really be improved on. This is perhaps true, of the basic hull shape and rigging set up but just by using more modern materials the efficiency of such ships is bound to be improved and keep on improving as long as there are sailors to sail them and goods to be delivered.

There was a famous square rigger skipper called Jarvis who was always trying to improve his ships, making them faster and safer he even took out patents for many of his inventions. His view was that the sailing ship in some form or another need not go, that there was work for her to do, and that the wind was too good a source of motive power (and the science of it’s use too well developed) just to be thrown away. I couldn’t agree more.

Today we are faced with the greatest challenge ever witnessed by the planet. With over six billion people already and an expected total of nine billion in just 40 years time, we HAVE to find ways to live in a more sustainable fashion. We can do it. We just need the will. It’s so easy to get depressed and overwhelmed by the scale of the problem but in fact it is not complicated. We know what the problem is and how to fix it, that’s already something.

We must use our ‘collective brain’ to find solutions. There is no one single answer. There are millions of ways to move forward and we must all be part of that. Here is a project that has far reaching and very positive repercussions. The wind is free. Is it so crazy to imagine a fleet of well manned square rigged ships trundling silently around the planet delivering goods? In this day and age I don’t think so.

We have put men on the moon, yet for this project it’s just a question of collating the long gathered information, making a few choices, being brave and then making it work. It is nothing that has not been done before, the technology is simple yet efficient. What better ambassador for a country, than a proud ship that is part of a global quest for more ethical, sustainable, logical, exciting, soul lifting and non polluting way of trading.


Update: This article informs us that many shipping companies are reducing the speed of their ships to reduce costs. Has there ever been a better time for a sailing cargo ship revival?

Update: July 2015 Looks like we need this now more than ever:


March 31, 2010

Sailing ships are the future

Filed under: boats — Tags: , , , , , , , — admin @ 10:54


Leica M9 Summarit f2.5 50mm f11 @ 250 160 ISO. Cambria and Lady Trix at Les Voiles des St Tropez classic yacht regatta, October 2009


The unbelievable and quite shocking pollution statistics associated with shipping and the need for a more environmentally sympathetic approach. And even a proposed solution.

I had a dream. I dreamed that we could live sustainably on this planet, I dreamed that our impact on it was so reduced that we no longer heard daily stories in the press about the loss of yet more habitat and another species gone forever. I even had part of the answer. However when I told people about this dream I was met with negativity and cynicism. I too could have been brought to this pitiful and rather sad level but I wanted to do something about some of the problems we as a race have created for ourselves. So I refused to listen to the doom mongers and instead have compiled this rather shocking list of facts in the hope that people will realise the full implications of taking no action. We know the problems, we have the solutions, all we need is the WILL. Or do you want to go down in history as the most vilified and stupid generation that ever lived?

I found the following in various places. This from Wikipedia:

Ship pollution is the pollution of air and water by shipping. It is a problem that has been accelerating as trade has become increasingly globalized, posing an increasing threat to the world’s oceans and waterways as globalization continues. It is expected that, …shipping traffic to and from the USA is projected to double by 2020. Because of increased traffic in ocean ports, pollution from ships also directly affects coastal areas. The pollution produced affects biodiversity, climate, food, and human health.

Exhaust emissions from ships are considered to be a significant source of air pollution. “Seagoing vessels are responsible for an estimated 14 percent of emissions of nitrogen from fossil fuels and 16 percent of the emissions of sulfur from petroleum uses into the atmosphere.”[27] In Europe ships make up a large percentage of the sulfur introduced to the air, “…as much sulfur as all the cars, lorries and factories in Europe put together.”[32] “By 2010, up to 40% of air pollution over land could come from ships.”[32] Sulfur in the air creates acid rain which damages crops and buildings. When inhaled sulfur is known to cause respiratory problems and increase the risk of a heart attack.[32]

The Kyoto Protocol, which does not require countries to measure or curb emissions from shipping. But that may change in 2009, giving a boost to the prospects of harnessing wind power beyond the value in saved fuel.

Everyone is talking about making engines more efficient or propellers or adding kites to reduce fuel consumption but what everyone fails to realise is that the wind is free and as recently as 100 years ago the sailing cargo ship had already evolved and was capable of making journeys of thousands of miles without producing so much as one gram of carbon. With the benefit of today’s technology, modern sailing ships could easily manage to deliver a huge proportion of the World’s goods with no pollution at all.

This is not new. Why not benefit from that hard earned experience? Isn’t about time we did something so obvious? What will future generations think of us, when we had the answers but failed to do anything about it? Why is it so hard to build and man a steel sailing ship? A well maintained sailing ship would far outlive any cargo ship with an engine. So in the long run any extra costs will be absorbed. A new cargo ship might cost $20 million, surely a sailing ship could be built for a similar sum, perhaps less as it needs no costly engine. Maintenance costs are massively reduced. Hello? This is a no brainer. Why am I the only person who sees an opportunity to do something so obvious and logical?

We put a man on the moon, are you telling me that building a sailing ship to deliver goods around the World is too hard? What bollocks. I can well understand why sailing ships died out because of engined ships but that was then, this is now. We NEED sailing ships now. There are winds out there in the oceans that blow steadily and with enough power to move ships at similar speeds to engined cargo ships, not with a 10 or 20 percent reduction but a 100 percent reduction. With the technology available today a sailing ship’s efficiency could be improved so much, modern weather forecasting would allow ships to keep in the best winds increasing efficiency still further.

A ship moves 3 metres on one litre of fuel. That’s ridiculous. A ship uses hundreds of tons of fuel daily. Yearly a ship will need to spend millions just to move. A sailing ship can girdle the globe with zero emissions. The fuel savings alone should be enough of a motivation to start using sailing ships again.

All around the planet there are good and predictable winds that blow all year round. There will still be a need for engined ships but for many routes a sailing ship is a very viable alternative. I’m not making this up. 100 years ago, ships could carry cargoes as big as 8000 tons and deliver them from one end of the globe to the other at average speeds not far from the engined ships. With a little help from technology, this efficiency can only increase. All this with ZERO pollution.

In 1968 Sir Robin Knox Johnston took 300 days to sail around the world non stop. These days the time is less than 60 days! So how much could a sailing cargo ship be improved?

From Lloyds List Nov 08

High fuel prices call for new ship designs

Janet Porter – Wednesday 19 November 2008

NAVAL architects need to return to the drawing board and produce fundamental ship design changes in keeping with far higher fuel costs. 
That is the recommendation of Germanischer Lloyd, which said much can be done to improve operating efficiency. Even those ships already on order, but not yet under construction, should be reconfigured if shipowners assume that oil prices will remain expensive in the foreseeable future.

Again, we are missing the point. We need a whole new look at the way we do things. Of course we should always strive to reduce consumption wherever possible but we must not ignore the obvious either. And the following is from the World Shipping Council:


May 2, 2008

Shipping lines worldwide are struggling as crude oil prices topped an unprecedented US$119 per barrel this week, in turn pushing marine bunker fuel prices up past $552 per ton – a $26 per ton increase since the end of March alone. Bunker prices have risen 87% since the beginning of 2007.

Fuel costs represent as much as 50-60% of total ship operating costs, depending on the type of ship and service.

Ocean carriers are required to recover these costs to maintain levels of service, meaning the price of shipping goods will continue to face upward pressures.

To illustrate the effect of the rising fuel costs, consider the following example of a large modern container vessel used in the Trans-Pacific trade with an actual, maximum container capacity of 7,750 TEUs (twenty foot equivalents) or 3,875 FEUs (forty foot equivalents). With the cost of bunker fuel at $552 per ton, with fuel consumption at 217 tons per day, a single 28-day round trip voyage for this one vessel would produce a fuel bill of $3,353,952. This number could be greater for a number of reasons, such as if the voyage were more than 14 days, or if the vessel were smaller and less fuel efficient per container, or if schedule delays required the vessel to speed up to stay on schedule.

Recovery of fuel cost from cargo customers is a challenge when one considers that vessel capacity utilization is not 100%, that trades are not evenly balanced (e.g., U.S. Trans-Pacific exports may utilize only half of a vessel’s capacity), that different trades and commodities can handle different levels of rates, and that fuel prices continue to rise. If a cargo shipper pays less than its share of the fuel cost, it can only mean that other shippers must pay more, and/or the carrier fails to recover its operating cost, which is not a sustainable business scenario.

Fuel cost recovery cannot be done on a per-vessel/per-sailing basis. A carrier has strings of vessels operating in scheduled service and must recover its total costs. Thus, the above example scenario, if extended to a single weekly Trans-Pacific service using five vessels, would create an annual fuel bill to the carrier of $220 million. Approximately 1,500 ocean-going liner vessels, mostly containerships, make more than 26,000 U.S. port calls each year, providing American importers and exporters with efficient transportation services to and from roughly 175 countries.

Today, U.S. commerce is served by more than 125 weekly container services. The annual fuel cost for the services is tens of billions of dollars and continues to rise substantially. How carriers seek to obtain recovery of these rapidly rising fuel costs in the current market is a matter for commercial negotiations, but the significance and the magnitude and the consequences of the challenge continue to grow.

Operational Changes

Carriers have been responding to the high cost of fuel by utilizing a range of operational adjustments. Beginning in early 2007, most container lines began restructuring their operations to address fuel price trends. They have:

• redeployed ships among global trade lanes to optimize utilization

• consolidated services through multi-carrier alliances

• consolidated routes to serve more locations with fewer ships

• slowed sailing speeds to conserve fuel where possible within schedule

• improved monitoring of hull and propeller conditions to reduce resistance and improve efficiency

• adopted container transloading, street turns and other strategies to cut inland fuel costs

Considering that these steps have generally already been taken by shipping lines, there are limited additional operational measures that vessels can take to further reduce fuel consumption.

YES THERE ARE!!!! BUILD SAILING CARGO SHIPS!!!!! Why is no one thinking along these lines? It’s almost unbelievable. Yet it was the sailing ships that started trading goods around the World in the first place. We have done it before, we can do it again. With modern technology we can really do something extraordinary. Read on, it seems that Environmental initiatives are adding further costs. Is now not the time to think again? It’s all been done before. There is no risk. This is a win win win situation.

Environmental Measures to Add to Cost Increases

Environmental initiatives to address vessel air emissions will add to these growing costs. The World Shipping Council has fully supported the efforts of the U.S. and other governments to establish new environmental standards for vessel air emissions, and supports the new standards that the International Maritime Organization has recently agreed to for new engine standards and new fuel standards. However, the cost of low sulfur fuels to be used in Emission Control Areas will be roughly double the cost of bunker fuel, thus creating even more upward operating cost pressures going forward.

While the liner shipping industry fully understand its responsibility to implement and adhere to these new environmental standards, it is essential that the environmental community and regulators also understand that fuel prices are already causing ships to minimize fuel consumption and minimize emissions. Ships cannot afford to waste fuel and do not emit more CO2 than is necessary for the conduct of commerce. Further taxes or charges on fuel consumption will not cause fewer green house gas emissions; it would only raise costs, and further add to inflation. And encourage the building of sailing ships instead

It is also important to recognize that ocean shipping is the most energy efficient form on freight transportation. For example, recent estimates show that moving goods by ocean container can be 17 times more fuel efficient than transporting the same goods by air and 10 times more efficient than transporting the goods by road. Environmentally, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by shipping goods by sea.


Every sector of the economy is being affected by rising fuel costs.

The transportation industry is being particularly hard hit.

While ocean carriers may provide the most fuel efficient form of transportation, they face an unavoidable imperative of recovering these rising costs if current service levels are to be maintained.

# # #

So as you can see, no one has even thought to suggest going back to the old ways. Were they so bad? It was mainly economics that caused the demise of sailing ships of old, but now with environmental pressures ever increasing I feel there is a place for sailing ships to deliver cargo.

Yes, I know there will be objections and resistance, but do we want to do something about our chronic abuse of our home, or do we not give a shit? We as a race can do the most incredible things. Humans are amazing. Lets show just how great we can be. It just takes the will. Do we have the will? I sincerely hope so.

Humans changed their destiny when they began to adapt their environment to suit them. Ultimately it will be our downfall. All other species on this planet adapt to their environment and have survived for hundreds of millions of years like that. A sailing ship is perfectly adapted to the environment and in harmony with nature. It’s a no brainer.

The wind is FREE.

Powered by WordPress