A British schooner docked in Penzance yesterday carrying 30,000 bottles of wine on a voyage that enthusiasts believe will herald a return to wind power in merchant shipping.
The first commercial cargo of French wine to be transported by sail in the modern era is due in Dublin this week after a six-day journey, which is being touted as a green and ultimately cheap alternative to fuel propulsion.
Hmm, how green and how cheap?
“Originally this was intended as an ecological project enabling producers to put a label on their goods saying they had been moved by a clean means of transport,” said Mr Albert.
“But it could become economically interesting as well given the high price of fuel.” He said CTMV had chartered five sailing ships to transport products such as Fairtrade coffee, jam and alcoholic drinks. “We are 5 per cent more expensive than standard merchant shipping companies at the moment. But we are going to build our own ships and when they enter service, we will be cheaper.”
5% eh? We\’re obviously not going to see the container ships from China being replaced with tea clippers, but this is an interesting idea all the same. If, for example, sea freight were brought under on of the carbon trading schemes or carbon taxes (although it\’s very tough to see a mechanism by which they would) then for certain journeys sail probably would be cheaper.
The actual trade off though is the usual one with green projects: at least here they\’re properly accounted for. More labour is required to sail a ship and that labour is required for longer as compared with diesel engines. If prices move so that said labour is cheaper than fule, all well and good….we can leave the markets themselves to both work that out and do something about it.
There\’s also something rather grand about seeing one of these ships in full flight: but that\’s an externality, a positive one perhaps, but still one not captured by the price system.