Fair Transport: The Ship Tres Hombres

The sailing cargo vessel Tres Hombres entering the Douro 12 November

Whilst many people and firms in recent years have worked on developing sustainable production for a wide range of goods and fair trade and fair payment for their workers, the idea of fairness and sustainability failed when it came to long distance transport.  CO2 offsetting is some small sop to conscience, but there seemed no alternatives that would not create environmental damage in the first place.

Except one:  sail.  Jorne Langelaan has a vision of a revival of the great age of sail, as a means of Fair Transport for cargo around the Atlantic.  Jorne came of a Dutch shipping family, and grew up working on motor transport vessels, and then began to work on sailing vessels.  He went on to study commercial sailing ships at a nautical college and has launched the first firm, Fairtransport, to offer sustainable shipping through a fleet of sailing and hybrid cargo ships.

The Tres Hombres in Ribeira last weekend. Look for something like a couple of black cricket bats held at 1:00 – those are the windmills that power the navigation electronics.

The 32 metre schooner brig Tres Hombres is the ambassador for the concept, a vessel that appears pure 19th century, all sail and no engine.  But look again:  she carries two small windmills on her stern which, together with a drag generator which is towed underwater, create enough energy to continually recharge batteries to support a full complement of modern navigational technology.

Tres Hombres has been in service just two years now, and has settled into a circuit of the Atlantic to receive and deliver cargo.  Her first cargo was aid to Haiti in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, and from there they carried more aid products around the Atlantic, as well as carrying commercial products such as food stuffs, wool, fish, clothing and more.  In addition to carrying up to 40 tonnes of cargo, the ship engages in some trade on its own behalf, buying and selling goods, most notably some rather fierce rum from the Dominican Republic, “Aged Rum for the Salty Soul” which can be purchased from the ship directly, or at a number of outlets in Holland (follow the link for those details).

Flying the flag for the Muxagat wines on board, which will be delivered to Madeira

This past week she has been docked in Porto, in Ribeira, and receiving visitors from 10:00 to 17:00 daily (be prepared to walk the plank to go aboard!).  She has taken on cargo in Porto, including Mateus Nicolau de Almeida’s Muxagat wines which are bound for Madeira, Portuguese olive oil and clothing from LaPaz, a shop here in Porto.  In addition, she carries wines, foodstuffs and other goods from previous ports of call in France, Holland and elsewhere.

From Porto the Tres Hombres will sail to Madeira, then the Canary Islands, Cabo Verde, and spend the winter at various ports around the Caribbean.  Next April she will go to New York City, then cross the northern Atlantic via the Azores to the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands in May and June.

If you follow no other link on this page, please, at least look at this one:  Jorne presenting at a Tedx event in Amsterdam about the environmental perils of the existing shipping industry, and the viable alternative offered by sailing ships.

Jorne and crew member Paul in the hold of the Tres Hombres

Jorne and crew member Paul in the hold of the Tres Hombres

The Tres Hombres website includes a page with full details of their itinerary, and information about joining the ship as training crew as well as links to videos and more.

To learn more about sustainable shipping and the other vessels engaged in this enterprise, view the Fairtransport website.  Contact pages on either the Tres Hombres or Fairtransport site will give you the details if you want to discuss shipping your goods by sail.