Returning to sail

Nov 02 | 2023

Steve Jordan has been a sailor all his life. So, when he heard about a project to build a new breed of sailing cargo ship, the temptation to find out more was irresistible.

The Sailcargo shipyard in Costa RicaSailcargo Inc is an extraordinary company.  As its name suggests it is a company that moves cargo by sail, or at least, it will be doing soon.  But it’s much more than that.  It’s a community project, a centre of learning, an investment opportunity, and it’s an inspiration to shippers everywhere that there just might be another way of doing things.  A better way.  One that gives them new marketing opportunities and helps them minimise their emissions.  One that works - and protects the environment too.  

The company started operating in 2016.  It was the brainchild of two Canadian sailors who met aboard Tres Hombres, a sail cargo brigantine operated by Fairtransport, between Europe and the Caribbean. This gave them the idea to develop the concept of sea cargo by sail, increasing capacity and bringing it right up-to-date to serve the Americas, while creating an emission-free shipping opportunity for its customers.

Their third founding member was from Costa Rica.  This provided the opportunity they needed.  Costa Rica is known for its commitment to environmental protection and strict forestry policies.  So, they decided to build a boat yard right in the middle of the jungle and, in the process, develop a new industry for the local people.

Sailcargo Inc is a for-profit company.  It already has one ship, Vega, that was built in Sweden and recently refit.  The big project, however, is Ceiba, a 46-metre long, 250 tonne, three-masted schooner with additional propulsion from batteries that can be recharged by kinetic energy while the ship is underway. She is due for launch in 2025.

Alejandra Terán is Sailcargo’s chief marketing officer.  “It's not just about building a ship,” she explained. “It's about generating a movement and proving the value of clean shipping.”

The business model is interesting too ...

Photo: The Sailcargo shipyard in Costa Rica. 
Photography by Jeremy Starn.

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