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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wine sails into Denmark

The BBC hails eco-friendly wine shipment

From Fiona Graham

On a warm summer's day in August, Danish wine merchant Sune Rosforth took delivery of 8,000 bottles of wine that had arrived from France.

From the offices of financial institutions flanking the quay, workers looked out at something that had not been seen in central Copenhagen for many years.

The ship that had brought the wine from the Breton port of Brest was a 32m-long brigantine called Les Tres Hombres.

Mr Rosforth's company, Rosforth and Rosforth, supplies restaurants in Denmark with organic and biodynamic wines.

Moving wine in a more eco-friendly fashion was something he had been talking about for some time with an Anjou wine producer who was also a skipper, but the plan had originally been to use canal barges.

"One day he called us to tell us that there was an opportunity to get the wine finally shipped by a boat, but it was going to be a sailing vessel," he says. "So we said, 'Fantastic, let's go!'"

The Tres Hombres set sail in 2009 from Amsterdam and has been shipping cargo ever since. It also gives land-lubbers the chance to sign on as part of the crew for a fee.

The wine shipment was planned with their business partners, the sailing freight transport company TransOceanic Wind Transport (TOWT). The company works with a small fleet of sailing ships, and provides buyers with a means of tracking the journey the goods take.

It's not some sort of adventurous poetic revival of 19th century technology, on the contrary it's something that is definitely addressing energy transition at sea," says TOWT founder Guillaume Le Grand.
The maritime industry is estimated to produce 3%-5% of global carbon dioxide emissions - making sailing very attractive to the organic and eco-friendly sector.

But as the price of oil rises, so does the cost of traditional cargo options.

This has led to research into alternative fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), and a slowdown in the speed at which cargo freighters move at - a practice known as slow steaming.

For Mr Le Grand this all adds up to opportunity.

"Until 10-12 years ago, most of the ships were crossing oceans at about 20 knots average speed. Now they're going down below 15 knots," he says.

"[The Tres Hombres] crosses the ocean at 8 to 10 knots. It's not something that's ridiculous in terms of speed."

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