This summer we welcomed the Fairtransport ship Nordlys to UK shores with a trial cargo of 1000 litres of Spanish olive oil. We are experimenting in reducing the supply chain to the simplest form but from far away! Farm – Ship – You.
By using sailing vessels to cover the largest part of the distance from farm to plate, we are not only reducing the use of fossil fuel in transport but creating work for these traditional trading vessels, taking international trade back to a human scale and in the process offering the highest quality products at the best possible price (with a fair share to all)…
“How?” you say. By asking our community and customers to become part of our adventure. By pre-ordering and paying in advance for your oil, we have a better idea of how much to order and do not have to front the cost fully ourselves, a real help for a small business. By committing to pick up your order from the ship when she arrives, buying oil as a collective or through a local food cooperative, you take care of your share of storage and onward distribution. By buying in bulk, we supply the oil in 5 litre bottles as we receive them from the farm, we significantly reduce the need for excessive fancy packaging – it’s what’s inside that counts.
With Sail Cargo, international products become as good as local and therefore a natural extension of a healthy, sustainable food network. Sail Cargo can bring diversity to a local market with foods from different climates, bioregions and cultures without supporting the inherent pollution in the default shipping industry or the poor working conditions suffered by sailors in many of these container ships.
This is why we make every effort to choose products that are produced in line with our ethics, so that the goodness runs from soil to serving.
… Well that is the theory anyway…
The original plan was to bring the oil from Porto, Portugal right into the heart of Bristol aboard the engine-less Nordlys ship in July. Feral Trade had sourced the Olive Oil, Xisto Wines was dealing with the port logistics and we were focused on sales, specifically within Bristol.
By May, the Nordlys was back in the water after an emergency refit and on her way south along the west coast of Europe. The refit was due to damage caused by a wayward fishing vessel (read about it here and follow her voyages in detail on the Fairtransport blog). With some unforeseeable delays, understandable for a voyage full of many firsts, the Norldys finally picked up the Olive Oil and Portuguese wines in Leixoes and began her return north.
Around this time we were told that authorities in Bristol would not allow the use of the tug that kindly offered to bring the Nordlys into the port for us. As the ship has no engine and sailing on the channel is restricted, we wouldn’t get into the city without a tug. The tug the authorities offered came at a price of £3,000.00 – making the operation impossible.
Luckily, we are a resourceful lot, and decided to receive the ship in Brixham Harbour even though this threw the onward transport plans for the oil into chaos. Everyone who had invested in the oil with the excited anticipation of visiting the ship in port, instead had the oil delivered to them personally. This took up time we hadn’t planned for, but meant we were able to meet and thank all the investors in person, and feel the great support that is there for what we are doing.
We are now planning next year’s voyages. This pilot trip has helped understand and refine all the ‘what’s’, ‘where’s’ and ‘when’s’ and ‘how’s’ but the ‘why’ is still the same – to be the change we wish to see in the world!