90% of everything...

Nearly everything we own and use, has at some point, spent time as cargo in a container ship, travelling through a vast network of ocean routes and ports that most of us know almost nothing about. Our economy relies on international trade, and international trade relies on ships.

photo credit: Peter Menzel - Material World A Global Family Portrait: USA (2000)

  These items have also passed through the hands of many others, extracted from land and sea, shaped into a form ready for consumption, then packaged, delivered, bought, used and discarded. These intricate supply chains of stuff, connect us to the livelihood of others and environments across the planet, more intimately than ever before.

Image: Sourcemap

 Not only are we blind to this gigantic maritime industry, but also to the environment that supports it. Covering 70% of the planet’s surface, the ocean is the lifeblood of Earth, driving weather, regulating temperature and ultimately supporting all living organisms.

photo credit: Anuar Patjane Floriuk - "Whale Whisperers"

Watch Rose George's TED Talk: Inside the Secret Shipping Industry (2013)

Yet for all our reliance on the ocean, 95% of this realm remains unexplored. (We know more about the surfaces of the Moon and Mars, than of the ocean floor.)

Listen to this awe-inspiring talk about the Ocean, by marine biologists Tierney Thys  & Sylvia Earle

plankton: Greek for "wanderer" or "drifter"

 This lack of knowledge is not standing in the way of “progress”. Long considered the traditional domain of shipping, fishing, and -since the 1960’s- offshore oil and gas, the maritime industry landscape is poised to undergo a profound transition.

New industries include offshore wind, tidal and wave energy; oil and gas exploration and production in ultra-deep water and exceptionally harsh environments; offshore mariculture; seabed mining; deep sea water harvesting; OTEK power; marine tourism; and marine biotechnology.

Image: An ocean-based aquapod for harvesting fish.


These industries may be of great benefit but are operating, largely unregulated, in a barely managed ocean space.

- watch this talk by Kristina Gjerde about "Making law on the high seas"

 It is time for us to reconnect with our Oceans, our Commons, and demand transparency and ethical management of this global seascape, above and below the water, for the benefit of both people and planet.

A good place to start is at home - for eventually, all things return to the sea.

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, ReTHINK.

Image: Papua New Guinea

Shipping & Fossil Fuel Facts:

 80% - plus, of global trade travels by ship 

 90,000 - ocean going cargo ships

15% - of global carbon emissions come from moving stuff and people

1 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted each year by the merchant shipping fleet

 15 - of the largest ships pollute as much nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide as all the cars in the world.

 16 tons of fuel burned per hour by The Emma Maersk, one of the top 10 longest container ships in the world.

 70% - of all shipping emissions are within 400km of land.

 85% - of all ship pollution is in the northern hemisphere.

Environmental Impact of Shipping, Beyond their Exhausts

BALLAST WATER discharged between foreign ports typically contains a variety of non-native biological matter that can cause extensive ecological and economic damage to aquatic ecosystems.

Marine Vectors

SOUND POLLUTION caused by ships and other human ocean activity can travel long distances interfering with many marine species’ abilities to communicate, feed and locate themselves.


COLLISIONS Most reports of collisions between whales and vessels involve large whales, but all species can be affected. Collisions with large vessels often go unnoticed and unreported. Animals can be injured or killed and vessels can sustain damage. Serious and even fatal injuries to passengers have occurred involving hydrofoil ferries, whalewatching vessels and recreational craft.

International Whaling Commission

OIL SPILLS have a devastating effect on marine life.

In April of 2010 the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank, tragically killing eleven people and spewing nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil flowed from the blowout for 86 days until the well was capped, and it was a full five months after the blowout that the federal government finally declared the well dead. The Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, wildlife and coastal communities will feel the impacts of this spill for decades if not centuries.


SEWAGE discharge from the cruise line industry is vast and if it is untreated can cause viral and bacterial contamination of fisheries and shellfish beds.

GREYWATER from cleaning activities aboard ships contain a variety of pollutant substances, a 3,000 person cruise ship can discharge up to 960,000 litres per day.

SOLID WASTE that is not recycled or dumped in port is treated on board (incinerated, pulped, ground) for discharge overboard.

BILGE WATER that is not sufficiently filtered can leak engine oil and gasoline into the ocean.

See Friends of the Earth's Cruise Ship Report Cards

SHIPPING ACCIDENTS even in this age of precision navigation, many accidents occur at sea. As the size of ship increases, so does the scale of the impact on the environment should the ship fall into disaster.

Photo: The Motor Vessel Hyundai Fortune burns in the Gulf of Aden, approximately 43 miles off the coast of Yemen.

SHIP BREAKING in 2013 - 1,213 ships were broken down, containing tens of thousands of tons of hazardous waste materials. It is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. - Shipbreakers

FREIGHTENED – The Real Price of Shipping, "reveals in an audacious investigation the mechanics and perils of cargo shipping; an all-but-visible industry that relentlessly supplies 7 billion humans and holds the key to our economy, our environment and the very model of our civilisation."



Sail Cargo

Sail Cargo Alliance

New Dawn Traders is co-creating the Sail Cargo Alliance (SCA) to support a new and growing community interested in shipping ethical cargo under sail. Beyond building viable trade for these sailing vessels, the SCA is committed to setting the highest standards for ethics across the supply chain. This is an alliance of ship owners, brokers, producers and anyone interested in working together in a healthy transport culture.

Sail Cargo Projects Worldwide

From 5 to 50 tonnes, these sail cargo projects will hardly make a dent in a shipping industry where a standard cargo ship carries around 20,000 containers. Their voyages are more than an alternative to this gas guzzling industry, these ships are united around a way of life!

Get involved! The ships offer a mix of opportunities including sail-training, ship-building, passenger travel and all round adventure.

Get in touch! Contact the projects directly or if you need more encouragement, contact us. Should your project be listed here?

  • Tres Hombres Ship – Fairtransport Co.

    The 32 meter schooner Tres Hombres has been sailing emission free since December 2009. She maintains a sustainable shipping route…

  • Grayhound Lugger

    Grayhound Lugger

    The 20 meter lugger Grayhound was built in two years between 2010 and 2012 and the first three masted lugger…

  • Avontuur Ship

    Avontuur – Timbercoast

    The Avontuur is a two masted gaff rigged schooner which was built in 1920 by Otto Smit in Stadskanaal, Netherlands.…

  • Appollonia - Hudson Sail Freight

    Appollonia – Hudson Sail Freight

    Their goal is to transform the Apollonia into the Hudson Valley region’s largest carbon-neutral merchant vessel. Powered by wind and…

  • Musafir


    Musafir means traveller. It is a word that can be found in many languages, like Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Kiswahili and…

  • Ceiba - Sail Cargo Inc

    Ceiba – Sail Cargo Inc.

    SAILCARGO INC. aims to make a positive mark in the world of transportation by being an effective, sustainable option. Through…

  • Hawila Project

    Hawila Project

    Hawila is a 25 m long, two-masted wooden Norwegian galeas from 1935. Since the summer of 2014, she has been…

  • Coastal Exploration Co.

    Coastal Exploration Co.

    In 2011 Henry, former Royal Marine and owner of Coastal Exploration Co., started to source and refurbish three traditional Norfolk…

  • Launch of Blue Mermaid

    Blue Mermaid

    Until now, Sea-Change Sailing Trust has been using an existing Thames sailing barge from where they are based in Maldon,…

  • Brigantes


    The goal is to recuperate the Onice, a historically valuable traditional steel-hull sailing freighter currently in Sicily. She will be…

  • De Gallant – Blue Schooner Co.

    “Offering the opportunity for consumers and producers to ship their goods using the power of the wind, for passengers to…

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