Is this Green Cargo?

Have you heard about Grain de Sail? What about Ceiba? In case you are wondering what is so special about them, well, the first is a sail powered cargo ship and the second is a cargo ship made of wood. Sustainable and environmental friendly? Yes.

Grain de Sail

Grain de Sail is considered a most unique cargo ship which set sail this week from France. The company is combining the production and sale of chocolate with the operation of an ecological cargo ship, primarily driven by sail power.

The 72-foot long aluminum hull cargo ship set sail on November 18 from St Malmo on the Brittany Coast of France and is currently heading to New York. With a schooner-type rigging and a crew of four, the vessel has a capacity of up to 50 tons of cargo and 28 pallets capacity into the refrigerated hold cooled with green energy.

While the vessel does have an auxiliary engine, the power will come from more than 350 square meters of sail area. In addition to fulfilling their environmentally-friendly mission, the vessel is fitted with technology, including wind turbines and photovoltaic panels.

For their first sailing the ship is carrying 14,000 bottles of French organic wine. The wine will be delivered to a distributor in New York and from there on to be sold to American restaurants.  After off-loading the wine in the United States, the Grain de Sail will head out to South America where they will load cocoa and coffee for the return voyage to France.

The project dates back 10 years and according to the founders they wanted it to be synonymous with maritime adventure and incorporate respect for the environment.

In 2011, using a 36-foot sailboat they transported more than a ton of green coffee to France.  Five years later they expanded to the chocolate and used an old sailing rig to transport coffee from the US and cocoa from the Dominican Republic. Now, having completed the construction of their sailing ship, Grain de Sail plans to make four Atlantic crossings each year without ever leaving or returning to France empty.

The crew is promising to post progress reports on the journey on the company’s website and social media so make sure you like and follow them if you are interested on their journey.


Ceiba is the first vessel built by Sailcargo, a company trying to prove that zero-carbon shipping is not just possible but also commercially viable. The ship is largely made of timber combining both very old and very new technology; sailing masts stand alongside solar panels with a uniquely designed electric engine and batteries. Once on the water, she promises to be capable of crossing oceans entirely without the use of fossil fuels.

Apart the fact that she will have one of the largest marine electric engines of her kind, Ceiba also has the means to capture energy from underwater propellers as well as solar power.

Although right now Ceiba looks somewhat like the ribcage of a gigantic whale laid out in a small, rustic shipyard on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, the team hopes to get her on the water by the end of 2021 and operating by 2022, when she will begin transporting cargo between Costa Rica and Canada.

Ceiba is small for a cargo ship. Her capacity will be for about 9 standard shipping containers while the largest conventional container ships today carry more than 20,000 containers. She will also sail at a relatively slow speed with16 knots at her fastest.

Even so, with at least a year to go until she is on the water, the ship already has a surplus of interest for her initial northbound voyages from companies willing to pay a premium for emissions-free transport of products such as green coffee, cacao, organic cotton and turmeric oil. Bio-packaging, electric bicycles and premium barley and hops for Costa Rica’s burgeoning craft-beer market are among bookings so far on the southbound journeys.

So should we call this Green Cargo Shipping? Will this appeal to companies that focus on being sustainable throughout their entire supply chain? We will just have to wait and see.

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