Business idea: True zero-emission, sustainable Atlantic seafare for livestock, passengers and freight.

There is a gap in the market for sustainable sea travel stopping in the Azores. Yachts are slow and uncomfortable on high seas, and cruise ships are too big, environmentally unfriendly and on set routes. Cargo ships are not often available to passengers and the welfare of livestock on these ships are uncertain. This business idea is tailored for commuter travel of especially remote workers, and specialised livestock travelling on the East Coast of USA – Azores – Europe trade route. It caters to discerning clients who wish to travel more sustainably, as well as clients who have their animals’ welfare top of mind.

Classic boats built with modern technology. They’re evolutionary, not revolutionary; combining the best of the old with the best of today.

Derek Ellard

With modern weather routing, an optimised sailing ship would take full advantage of the trade winds and prove to be efficient and profitable without polluting the ocean. The ship will be equipped with decent internet for remote work, as well as thoughtfully designed shelter, outdoor and exercise areas for selected livestock groups (including but not limited to dogs, horses and goats) who can travel with or without their caretakers. The ship will have kitchen facilities for self-cooking, but also a chef for selected prepared meals. The experience on board will be modest, but comfortable.

Proposed ship for proof-of-concept: GoSailCargo‘s Electric Clipper 100 (EC100). GoSailCargo has a variety of ships to form a fleet.

The 100’s lower-level containers and port/starboard holds could stow specialty and palletised freight with the upper ones for livestock and/or passengers in container footprint cabin format. 12 passengers could be comfortably carried and the voyage from Ponta Delgada to Lisboa could take 6 days or less in ideal conditions. The return trip could be Lisboa, Cadiz, Madiera , Azores.

Proposed routes

Ponta Delgada to Lisboa could take 6 days or less in ideal conditions. The return trip could be Lisboa, Cadiz, Madeira , Azores.

The boat can also go directly to UK, NL, Denmark/Scandinavia. Even if this is restricted to seasonal trips.

East Coast North America

look at smaller yards keen to enhance their green image such as Souss Massa in Agadir.

Estimated costs

Capital costs:

  • Vessel construction: Estimate 2.7 million Euros per ship, depending on fit-out details and compliance.
  • Legal (start up, regulations etc)

Operating costs: ???

  • Maintenance/repair, sail M&R and sail replacement, assuming a 2-year life of the sails.
  • Financing
  • Crew: Salaries, … assume 6 crew
  • Fuel
  • Insurance
  • Port
  • Stores and lubes
  • Overhead

Proposed income model [research required]

Funded passenger trips – can be slightly more expensive than air travel with excess baggage, or a cruise ship, but is likely still very price sensitive. (Needs to be cheaper than this expedition style cruises). (Example: fares for two people sharing the cheapest Britannia stateroom start from £1,099 per person each way (Southampton & New York) , for 7 nights accommodation, all meals & entertainment.) Example: StadAmsteram Clipper. Cargo voyages estimate 150 EUR/day , Freighter cruises

Meetings and events on board, for example small conferences, sprints, research events. Value-added service and catering for particularly the tech-minded communities.

Specialty animal transport – can be slightly more expensive than air travel with excess baggage, or a cruise ship, but is likely still reasonably price sensitive. Boutique service, 24/7 webcam access, personalised service and attention.

Boutique goods transport, door-to-door service, no middle agents, 24/7 access webcam possible for everyday people. Marketing strategy is almost exclusively word of mouth. Roll-on-roll-off vehicle transport – need to investigate the legal challenges here.

Proposed investment options

(By mass production, what amount is “mass”? 10s, 100s, 1000s?) Let’s assume in the order of 100 ships. That could be represented by a global community of, say, 2500 people who together own these 100 ships, (going with 20 or so people owning one ship) – a cluster of small consortiums of family, friends, small businesses. Together they share a network of trusted providers, trusted crew, trusted legal advice.

Shares in ship for priority trips (in the form of annual travel credits equivalent to the value corresponding to an interest rate of 8%, assuming a 10-year loan)

Government grants and business investment for secondary objectives – e.g. tourism, sustainable shipping research, marketing for complementary businesses.

Conventional ship financing is not an option, even for mass production of EC100 kits – start-up shipowners and small shipowners are generally excluded from the traditional shipping banking system.

Proposed timeline

  • How long does it take to build a ship?
  • How long can one plan for all the paperwork?


  • High initial cost not able to be recovered
  • Climate change and stormy seas make scheduling difficult
  • Port/Yard scheduling??


  • Why only 12 passengers? – find that rule that bumps more than 12 into a new category of risk insurance stuff
  • Can these ships be used between the islands of the Azores as well? – Yes, would a smaller ship be better or better to use the same ship and diversity the routes? Would the current operator between the islands allow it? (Currently only one ferry company and sounds like the government is pushing for flight rather than ocean travel?)
  • What specialised skills are needed for sail cargo ships when compared to ocean-going recreational yachts, and compared to engine-powered cargo ships?
  • How would animals at sea work?? How does responsible live cargo of larger animals look like?

Strengths of this approach

The GoSailCargo ships are a goldilocks size. They are small enough to be affordable for a small consortium of investors, and to be filled with less cargo to allow for more flexible scheduling and customised routes to smaller ports. On the other hand they are large enough to make the ocean crossing fast enough and comfortable enough to serve as a commuter ship.

Climate change is a risk to the shipping industry at large. Shipping will still be required, however, and smaller, true zero-emissions ships like the EC100 are most likely to thrive flexibly and resiliently in a more unpredictable, rapidly changing world.

Does this excite you?

Please get in touch – or comment below. This is just an idea at this stage, but any enthusiasm could contribute to making it happen.

Also, this is NOT an idea that is intended to create Euro millionaires. It is intended to provide everyday people with a truly sustainable option for ocean travel, to dream big and realise these dreams. Yes, it does need to be financially sustainable too, it does need to pay the bills, pay the salaries, pay the investments back, but it will not make you rich.

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