Sailing without Polluting: Costa Rica Builds the Maritime Transport of the Future

    The environmental and sustainability values promoted by the Central American country were decisive for carrying out the project

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    In Costa Rica, an emission-free boat is being built that aims to revolutionize maritime transport with a sailboat that will be the first electric motor cargo ship in the American continent.

    The environmental and sustainability values promoted by the Central American country were decisive for carrying out the project in Costa Rica. The environmental and sustainability values promoted by the Central American country were decisive for carrying out the project.

    The aviation sector is one of the sectors that produce the most emissions that contribute to global warming in temperature. However, according to data from the International Maritime Organization, maritime traffic generates 15 percent of global emissions from human activity.

    To break with this trend, a project is being developed in Costa Rica that aims to mark the new paradigm of international maritime transport. It is about the construction of Ceiba, the continent’s first electric motor sailboat for the 100 percent emission-free maritime cargo transport service.

    With a traditional appearance, the sailboat integrates cutting-edge technology in the design of electric motors, made by a German company, and two cabins with solar panels. It also has three cranes on the masts that can unload 270 tons of cargo, and aims to save 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year at 100 percent load (calculated over 25 years).

    In this way, Ceiba aims to facilitate the international export of products made by small local producers and cover the carbon footprint of transporting organic and fair trade products to their final destination.

    The initiative is the first boat-building project for Danielle Doggett, a young Canadian who has more than 15 years of experience in traditional sailboats. Passionate about sailing since adolescence, she has installed in the town of Punta Morales-Puntarenas, the shipyard where Sailcargo, the company she runs, is building this ambitious project. About 200 people have been involved since the beginning of the project, which has a staff of 50% women.

    A project that excites young and old

    In order to start the construction of Ceiba, at a cost of $ 4,600,000, Doggett launched a crowdfunding campaign. With this initiative, “we have reached more than a million dollars,” she said, pointing out that, after this initial operation, currently, “the financing is in the form of investments,” she added.

    These contributions come from individuals from different parts of the world, such as Steve Abbott. “I have been a small investor for four years,” this Canadian retiree said. “From the beginning I have been following the project,” explained Abbot, who decided to participate because “I want to be part of the success.” “I really believe in it,” stressed this enthusiastic about sailing, who feels a strong environmental concern.

    “Our goal for 2021 is to be able to get 100 percent of the financing, ensuring the future of the project,” stressed the director of Sailcargo. For this reason, “we are currently looking for the remaining million (dollars),” said Lea Tunney, responsible for investment relations at Sailcargo since last January.

    “As our investor relations and international recognition grow stronger, it is entirely possible to achieve this goal,” said Dogget. “It makes me very happy to see the growing global interest in clean transport in the world,” said Tunney, detailing that “14 percent of the investments are from Germans.”

    This young woman, originally from Coesfeld, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, started working on the project in May 2019, after receiving an invitation from Dogget to join the team after a visit to the shipyard where a friend of her was working. “Being able to shape the company and contribute something with such a significant impact through my work were the main reasons I wanted to join Sailcargo,” she explained.

    The impact of the Pandemic

    “The fact that this project survived the Pandemic speaks for itself: the world wants a clean transportation revolution,” said Dogget. “When the Pandemic occurred, I was so afraid that investments would stop coming or that we would have to close the shipyard for health reasons,” she added, stressing that investments did not stop coming”. Likewise, “we did not have to stop operations for one day.”

    Public water and electric transport

    “We have been very careful since the beginning of the Pandemic, we closed our shipyard for visitors and each new member of the foreign team that arrives has to quarantine themselves before entering Punta Morales,” said the young German.

    With a team made up of more than 25 nationalities, the restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic had consequences. “The borders of Costa Rica were closed for approximately six months and the carpenters who planned to join our team were unable to enter Costa Rica,” lamented Tunney.

    However, “we did not have to reduce the size of our team: no one lost their job, in fact, our team grew,” said the director of Sailcargo. “We hired a lot of people locally last year, but since Costa Rica has no tradition of building wooden boats, we still depend on bringing in foreign experts,” recalled the young German.

    Despite this, the project is committed to hiring local labor. Marvin Jiménez López, who lives 3 kilometers from the shipyard, joined the team two years ago. “Someone told me they were looking for carpentry workers,” he explained. Despite the fact that it is a different experience from the one he is used to, since normally “I work in crafts and also on glass”, he is happy to share this experience with people from other countries.

    Misael Ledesma, who lives 12 kilometers from the shipyard, joined a couple of months before his compatriot, but like him he had no experience in the sector. “I was a fisherman, but the sailboat caught my attention and I wanted to be part of the project,” he told.

    The global health crisis has delayed by six months the initial forecasts for the completion of the construction of Ceiba, which was estimated at the end of this at the end of 2021, as well as the navigation of the same by mid-2022.
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