(EN) TOWT’s contribution to « The role of storytelling in seeding a sea change for sustainable shipping » discussions

February 7th, Hermitage Community Moorings

Shipping sinking without thinking

How will shipping undergo the energy transition? Currently, the shipping industry is not able to efficiently cope with the environmental challenges of the 21st century. In a context of oil depletion, giant container-carriers cannot curb their emissions. Their costs already soar together with the price of oil and they are not preparing any global resilience to the end of oil.

How can storytelling change anything in that?

Or else, to start with, the right question to ask is why is shipping so secret and confidential?

A story of confiscated information

In the UK, in the 1950’s imported stuff was the equivalent of no more than the icing on a cake. Nowadays, it is the local products that represent the icing: 90% of the things bought in the country are shipped on giant container-carriers. If shipping costs can be seen as minuscule – even though they are growing dramatically – it is still for the final consumer to pay for it.

But if you try to find out how a product made in China was shipped to you – you won’t be able to find anything. You may find the actual factory but you can’t find the port, the ship or the container it was shipped in around the world. Secrecy and confidentiality are the main mottoes of the shipping industry. But you still pay for it!

Anonymous shipping for dehumanised consumerism

Consumers can not be demanding or can not really change things if they are not allowed to have any information about the service (shipping) they buy. It all happens as if you would find miraculously a product in your chain store: it is there, you are there, so why don’t you just buy it? Look, it is almost yours… Mostly shipping companies do not really want you to know how old and unsafe their ships are, or how they exploit their crews, or else how much sulphur dioxide is emitted. Their global lobbying body, the IMO is even really good at dodging regulations (heard about shipping in Kyoto? But ii is still is the equivalent of the 6th world country in terms of CO2-emissions. Of course, international waters ain’t a country, stupid…) and at imposing complete silence on how things are actually shipped.

Conventional shipping as transparent as… oil

The story of current shipping is non-existent, no data, no ship, no master is known to you, just buy – don’t ask. Now, the « role of storytelling in seeding a sea change for sustainable shipping » first implies being able to tell the untold.

Shipping by sail, as transparent as… the wind

Because what we do is shipping cargoes by sail, promoting the idea that we can concretely develop sustainable lines with existing wooden ships, so as to leverage a business interest to build large and modern sailing cargo ships, it matters a lot to us to provide as much information as we can. The ecotracking label providing « Shipped by sail – the carbon-neutral option » contains QR- and alpha-codes which link to a series of information such as: Dates of departure and arrival, logbook, name and picture of the skipper, estimated carbon emissions saved and more information. This is is turn the real story of the voyage of the product that the client is willing to find out more about. It also matters to let people know we do that something is actually happening and share with them the on-board experience. The storytelling does not have to be romantic or over-prosed – this would feed a cliché; it ought to be factual and should mention that shipping by sail is a way to prepare the world to the big Shock, in a serene and positive way; in fact working on how to survive and cross oceans… with the wind only.

One secret though: A large French ship soon coming to the UK with a large cargo of natural wine. Get in touch!

Guillaume Le Grand

Founder of TransOceanic Wind Transport

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