On the 5th of November, the Hudson River Maritime Museum, Center For Post Carbon Logistics, and Schooner Apollonia held a conference on small-scale inland and coastal sail freight at the HRMM Wooden Boat School.
Over 30 representatives from all types of organizations and fields were present, including farmers, distillers, sailors, teachers, journalists, naval architects, and marine engineers. Activists such as the main figures of WindSupport NYC were in the room, alongside those interested in closing the zero-carbon delivery loop with representatives from Revolution Rickshaws cargo bikes, among others.
Gavin Allwright, Secretary-General of the International Windship Association, gave opening remarks. With the declaration of 2021-2030 as the Decade of Wind Propulsion and over 150 member organizations supporting this effort, the IWSA is the international advocacy body for wind propulsion, and has recently been appointed an advisory organization to the IMO. The IWSA and Gavin's support has been important to the museum's whole effort on sail freight over the last two years, and we look forward to more collaborations in the future.
Supercargo Brad Vogel and Captain Sam Merrett of Schooner Apollonia presented on finding cargo for sail freight, and the challenges of moving that cargo under sail. From docking issues to the need for a large volume of cold calling, there are a lot of significant challenges to moving freight on the Hudson, but they can all be overcome. The main focus for the moment is maintaining the ship's current route, and finding more cargo to fill out the hold for each voyage.
Andrew Willner of the Center for Post Carbon Logistics presented on resilient and sustainable port infrastructure, and how this can be built into responses to climate change. By incorporating both recreational and working waterfront in planned flood zones and threatened areas, the most use can be made of areas which will be underwater or frequently flooded in 20-30 years. By making sure low-to-no carbon transport is incorporated into these plans, we can move into a future with plenty of waterfront jobs and recreational opportunities which re-center our communities around the water, instead of fossil fuel dependent highways.
Geoff Uttmark of ShipShares and TransTech Marine presented on possible finance models for small scale sail freighters. By focusing on community finance for community-owned boats, which will bring shared prosperity and a source of economic activity to port towns all along the Hudson Valley as the industry revives in the coming years. Innovative opportunities through crowd funding, community fundraising, government funds, and cooperative ownership models present a wide variety of options for funding the next generation of sail freighters.
Capt. Tanya Van Renesse, bosun of Schooner Apollonia, presented on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the re-emerging sail freight industry. The current situation for diversity, equity and inclusion in the maritime industry is highly problematic, and in many cases the maritime trades are mostly filled by an aging white male population. Purposefully including a wider variety of people from different parts of the community will make for higher engagement with sail freight, and a wider distribution of the gains across the community in both health and money terms. It was pointed out, and universally agreed, that active measures to reduce harassment and hazing in the maritime community should be taken immediately, but in the re-emerging world of sail freight, they should be taken pre-emptively.
This discussion was one of the most in-depth of the afternoon, as how to implement this moral imperative is not immediately apparent: The solutions to justice issues are rarely simple, and almost never easy, and frequently cannot be solved by a single action. Nonetheless, the room agreed that every sail freighter must make this part of their operational planning, and that the economic changes which will come from adopting sail freight must be intentionally inclusive and diverse, as well as equitable. While a rubber stamp solution may not exist, we can make certain we are trying, and developing a model which will lead to a future better than our present.
Lastly, Steven Woods presented on the issue of scale, and how the use of open source ideals can help encourage the growth of a vibrant, democratic, and diverse sail freight movement. By creating openly available ship plans, handbooks, port infrastructure, and other support such as brokerages, the sail freight movement can rapidly expand and be open to a wide variety of communities.
You can read the proceedings of the conference at the web page here.
Steven Woods is a contributing scholar at Hudson River Maritime Museum, and coordinator of the sail freight conference. He earned his Master's degree in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Prescott College, and wrote his thesis on the revival of Sail Freight for supplying the New York Metro Area's food needs. Steven has worked in Museums for over 20 years.
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