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Sails Go Up For the Sustainability Trend

13october2012moderncargosailing13 October, 2012, New York: We have all heard about it, carbon dioxide emissions are hurting the planet’s balance causing an increase in the temperature which results in stronger natural disasters. Whether you believe in global warming or you think it is an elaborate conspiracy theory, there is hard data showing these carbon dioxide emissions are indeed causing some serious trouble. What very few people know though, is that 4% of these emissions occur as a result of the shipping industry, including cargo ships.

That is why some in the industry are considering the possibility of having to go back to the "Golden Age of Sail," where the wind powered vessels were the rule on the seas. A fair example of this would be Tres Hombres, a 32-meter brigantine that will be transporting wine, rum, ale and chocolate; the trip will take 8 months to be completed, but some believe the longer trips are worth the money saved in fuel.

Arjen van der Veen is Tres Hombres founder and co-captain, he commented about the fuel situation "a lot of shipping companies are going bankrupt because fuel is so expensive.” He then added "The model we have now of shipping is unsustainable -- both for business and the environment. We chose a traditional rig because it's a beautiful design and we wanted to show people sailing can still be effective."

And while sailing is still effective, is it efficient? “For companies, it makes their goods unique. It's a little more expensive but people are willing to pay because it has no carbon footprint."

As the general population gains more global awareness, groups like Sail Transport Network (STN) are shooting for the implementation of some sort of quality stamp that would make it possible to identify which transport companies have gone green. STN’s founder, Jan Lundberg, also commented on the fuel problem "The accelerating rate of change in the economy and finance, the peak oil factor and the climate crisis are all tipping factors. If more people sense this soon, you could see a jump in sail transport investment," he then added "Many smaller older cargo vessels are idle today and are also being recycled -- these are realistic candidates for conversion to sail."

But the conversion to sail may not just be a suggestion but a prediction. Starting on January 2013, the new International Maritime Organization regulations will require for the shipping and transport companies to cut emissions by 20% over the next seven years and it is expected to cut them 50% by the year 2050.

The shipping industry may soon have to face the reality and embrace the idea of environmentally sustainable trade. We might just see, one again, giant sails decorating the water.