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Slow Shipping Sails Into Existence: Why Businesses Should Care

| Friday March 9th, 2012 | 5 Comments

In this world of increasingly instant gratification, what could possibly be the appeal of the shipment of your company’s products taking much longer than usual? A lot, if it’s via New Dawn Traders. The environmental impact of shipping and flying by plane have long received dramatic headlines. But shipping by boat? Not so much. Yet it should, as the 15 largest ships in the world produce as much sulphur oxide pollution as all the cars in the world combined. And that’s just the start.

Environmentalist Jamie Pike is currently sailing on an alternative: Irene, a vintage ketch that was once part of the British Merchant fleet. Intended as a way to draw attention to the impact of typical shipping and to become a viable option itself, the New Dawn Traders are currently on a 5 month journey around the world. They just loaded a cargo of olive oil in Spain, to be delivered in South America, next stop Canary Islands. It’s ironic that this ship, the last of its kind from a bygone era, is being used as a vehicle to point towards the future of shipping. Slow shipping.

The New Dawn Traders are looking beyond their solitary ship and into what’s possible after this. Crew member Lucy Gilliam sees the expansion largely focused on sailing ships, but adds, “It could also be hybrid ships with alternative fuel sources.” If recent news of Nissan’s solar powered, low friction painted, LED lit vessel are any indication, Gilliam is on to something.

All well and good, but what’s the benefit to the companies whose products are being shipped?

Like fair trade, companies that intentionally use shipping can but eliminate the environmental impact of their transport. Helping both create interest in and serve as shorthand once its meaning gets known, the New Dawn Traders will be working on developing a For Sail label. A clever, memorable term, it could prove quite helpful in giving the concept of Slow Shipping the wind it needs to be a substantial force for reducing the impact of boat based shipping  in the world, while also being a brand building boon to the bottom line of businesses that use it.

Readers: Would you as a business use Slow Shipping? Would you as a consumer make a point to buy For Sail items? Why or why not?


Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, global trend tracker, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.


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  • http://profiles.google.com/albertkaufman Albert Kaufman

    Wow, “as the 15 largest ships in the world produce as much sulphur oxide pollution as all the cars in the world combined. And that’s just the start.”  – didn’t know that.  Of course I would in all ways support a move towards slow shipping.  I’m not going to wait for this change.  

  • francis

    Yes I would support it… because I care about the environment and I love boats… And I think, every little bits help. Some stuff could be ship that would take a while to get ready to age or something… 5 stars.

  • Yeswhere

    Every year thousands of mega yachts cross oceans and, talking of carbon footprint, some burn so much fuel they do not even have the range to cross under their own steam and have to be transported.  Perhaps they could ‘give back’ to the planet and justify their existence by carrying charitable cargo to some of the more needy parts of the world, thus reducing commercial loads and the stunning amount of sulphur oxide pollution.

    • Adack111


  • Yeswhere

    In reply to Adack.
    Makes no sense at all to me at all.  For centuries we have been sailing the oceans with technology giving us safer and more practical boats, and now naval architects are designing vessels which do not follow the natural evolution of shipbuilding.  They are more like floating luxury 5-star hotels but if they have to be shipped, they cannot be regarded as serious yachts. (Heaven forbid the owner’s vintage wine collection should be shaken up.)  For this reason it is refreshing to read an article on good honest work boats.  So they are slower and pollute less… I am sure what is left of the whale population won’t mind.