Towt Shipping

SHIPPING COFFEE WITH SAILBOATS

Shipping is responsible for about 2.5 per cent of global carbon emissions. Add to that the noise pollution that prevents certain marine animals from finding their way around or communicating with potential mates. Sailboats could be a good answer to the problems on several fronts.

Bartalks reported that the Piccadilly-based department store Fortnum & Mason sells “sailboat chocolate”, a chocolate that is 99 per cent emission-free. The store imports its chocolate from a Caribbean solar-powered factory by ship, an electric van and a horse cart.

Shipping is a diesel-hungry process, which is why a group of environment-conscious coffee roasters and importers have turned their back on modern shipping methods and embraced the traditional, motorless sailboats. Perhaps, not completely motorless, but an engine is installed as standby, in case of emergency.

Yallah Coffee from the UK is one such roaster. They import their Colombian coffee by sail, actualising their vision of minimizing their footprint. Belco, a French-based importer, has imported 22 tonnes of Colombian coffee. It has been such a success among eco-oriented customers that it now plans to import 4,000 tonnes by sail by 2025.

One problem might be the size of the vessels. The big cargo ships can transport enormous amounts of various goods, something that sailboats simply cannot do. Belco will definitely need a big ship to import 4,000 tonnes.

Screenshot 2022 05 29 At 11.17.32 1
TOWT shipping layout Our shippers offer (towt.eu)

The importer is relying on its compatriot TransOceanic Wind Transport (TOWT). Since 2011, TOWT has been focused on reducing their carbon footprint by using wind power. According to the graphs on their website, each year, the company saves around 2,400 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. Now, they are also building a bigger boat that will be able to carry 1,100 tonnes of cargo, a ship that will definitely prove useful to Belco.

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TOWT Shipping Routes (as at May 2022)

The coffee industry has been amongst the leaders of the agronomical green movement. Farmers have been growing coffee under the shade of trees, replacing chemical fertilisers with organic waste, all in an effort to increase the quality of their crops and decrease their carbon footprint.

Many roasters have switched to biodegradable or recyclable packaging for their products; some even go so far as to only sell coffee when people bring their own containers, eliminating packaging completely. Shipping has been a weak link of the supply chain since the start.

Sailboats are romantic ideas, but they are not a practical replacement for cargo ships. They do however demonstrate the demand for change, and the price some people are willing to pay. In turn, we hope this will drive larger companies to adopt more climate friendly measures. 

For example, look at this news story from a couple of years ago, in which Swedish inventors are bringing sails back to cargo ships.

(193) Wind-powered cargo ship test model sails in Stockholm – YouTube

Existing cargo ships can also benefit from wind power by being adapted to have a large kite or ‘Parafoil’  deployed when the ship is at sea.

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These have been in development for some time, and although they claim potential reduction of 40% in carbon emissions, they haven’t been as widely deployed as some had hoped.

The landscape of cargo shipping is changing, but the question of whether sustainable solutions will evolve from a novelty to the mainstream cannot yet be answered.

Authors

  • Profil21

    Žiga Povše is a freelance writer, translator and a full-time coffee lover. After after visiting his girlfriend's family farm in Cerrado Mineiro, they opened an online store to sell Brazilian specialty coffee, and he remains an avid reader and a prolific writer.

  • Nick 2017 500X500 1

    Nick Baskett is the editor in Chief at Bartalks. He holds a diploma from the Financial Times as a Non Executive Director and works as a consultant across multiple industries. Nick has owned multiple businesses, including an award-winning restaurant and coffee shop in North Macedonia.

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