Gavin blog post

An Eventful Final Week in the South Pacific

After recovering from the Talanoa over the weekend, it was shaping up to be a very eventful final 5 days on these beautiful islands. Colin, Taholo and I had a chance to talk over the weekend and discuss the Talanoa and the wider picture of sustainability in the South Pacific, there were follow-up meetings at USP, IUCN and WWF to discuss these themes too.

I was basing myself out of the local WWF offices and my great thanks to Kesa, Sally and the team there. There was much discussion on expanding on the benefits of the sustainable shipping initiative and the boost to local livelihoods, creating regular and affordable shipping routes that will open up trade, enabling farmers to plant surplus crops and bring them to market and also to create space for innovation and other commercial activity. Protection of the environment and the ability to patrol and monitor the marine environment were also high up on the agenda – all of these issues are vital for vibrant coastal communities with protected reefs, fishing stocks and limited scope for damage through infrastructure building.

I could see the passion that the local teams have for their incredibly important work, and that emotion had also clearly evident on the last day of the Talanoa, when we were invited to share in the ceremony for transferring the captaincy of the Uto ni Yalo. The seafarers who sail the oceans in the traditional ways have a deep connection to the sea, to their boat and to their captain. Fair winds Johnathon.

We managed to arrange a meeting with the Rotuman council representatives in Fiji, we had good discussions relating to the possibilities of using Greenheart vessels on unreliable, unprofitable and defunct ferry routes within Fiji and on the Rotuma route. These routes are heavily subsidized or non-existent and we are looking at testing our ships on these routes within Fiji and elsewhere in the region in the not too distant future. The opportunity to build vessels in Fiji was also on the table, the revitalisation of the shipbuilding industry in the country would also be a major economic boost, help to revive a once proud industry and bring back skilled, well paying jobs.

I also had a chance, though only briefly, to meet up with some of the last boat builders with experience in working on Fijian-style Drua. I had shaken the hand of one of the last craftsmen to have actually worked on full-scale Drua at the Talanoa, he is 85 and had built multiple ships during his life, but then I jumped at the chance to visit the small community nestled in behind the FNU campus that still make Moce paper products by hand and also craft traditional canoes. A scale model of a Drua was a delight to see and I thank them for their warm welcome.

After numerous meetings and an interview on the USP campus Pasifik radio, I rounded off my trip with a final trip to the Oceania Arts Centre, talking with the staff there about South Pacific culture and preserving maritime traditions and protecting indigenous knowledge. The art work on display there was fantastic and as we talked the suggestion was floated that Ali and I should be interviewed for Sky TV, soon we were whisked off and a short interview later, the broadcast was scheduled to go out on the airwaves the day after I left, a feature on the 6 o’clock news beaned across the South Pacific – a fitting end to an eventful two weeks.

The next day, as I boarded the flight for the two-day return trip, I hoped my return to the islands would be aboard a Greenheart vessel rather than a plane, it may take a few more steps and another flight to secure that, but that opportunity had been brought quite a few steps closer.



Editor Resurgence Satish Kumar

Greenheart meets Satish Kumar’s Resurgence Magazine

Greenheart has had the honor of gaining mention in Lorna Howarth’s “Frontline: Action from the Grassroots section” in Resurgence magazine (Jan/Feb 2013). Former monk and environmental activist Satish Kumar, well-known for his 8,000 mile peace pilgramage where  travelled on foot from India to America to deliver “peace tea” to the leaders of then nuclear powers in the 1970s, serves as editor of the magazine. This important publication provides “positive, informed and original perspectives on environmental issues, engaged activism, philosophy, arts and ethical living.”

The program was discussed along side other groundbreaking initiatives:

  • using enourmous potential for spinach in photovoltaic panels
  • the Great Recovery UK-based project by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) to rethink product design to reduce waste
  • restoring the ancient technique of sand dams in Kenya to help prevent drought
  • China investment into energy conservation projects
  • New Caledonian initiative to create a marine protection zone to prevent the spread of deadzones in the South Pacific with 16 other Pacific island nations
  • The Grow Heathrow Project working to show that there is more of a future in Heathrow besides airport expansion by revitilizing once thriving market-gardens.

Greenheart is definitely in good company! Thank you Lorna for the wonderful writeup about “The World’s First Solar-Sail Cargo Ship”:

Greenheart – a non-profit organisation – is building a pioneering fuel-free, containerready commercial sail-solar ship in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Producing no emissions, the oceangoing hybrid uses an innovative combination of traditional sail and solar power with a shallow hull to allow access to thousands of miles of coastline and rivers. These ships can also load and unload cargo directly from a beach where there is no port, using a crane that doubles as a mast. The plan is for hundreds of these vessels to be owned and operated by the people and communities they serve, providing economic resilience and essential transportation for those who live on very remote coastlines. In addition to merchant activities, the craft can be adapted to applications ranging from ferries, artisanal fishing, marine research, patrol vessels and more. Greenheart is looking for additional crowdfunding support to make this project a reality.

To order your own physical or PDF copies of Resurgence issue 276 (Jan/Feb 2013) please visit


Greenheart Reports from Talanoa 2013 Conference

Talanoa – Day 1 – Meeting South Pacific Voyaging Heritage – Sail On!

A beautiful morning greeted the opening of the Talanoa. Presenters and attendees started to gather at the University of South Pacific campus in central Suva – down on the shoreline, the sea breezes were welcome comfort and the setting was perfect – modern multi-hulls pulled up on the beach, a traditional bure for talanoa in the grounds and a state of the art lecture hall for the proceedings.

Today was the day to connect with the voyaging heritage of the South Pacific. An incredible 6,000-yr history of long distance, blue ocean travel and settlement of one of the most challenging oceans in the world. The development of the Drua and Vaka ships, the drua of Fiji reached 90ft+, could carry up to 400 warriors and sail at 13-15 knots – incredible achievements in naval design at a time when Europeans were still mainly restricted to small, coastal vessels.

The passion of the voyagers, was exemplified by the heartfelt presentations given by Colin and Kaiafa (president and vice president of FVS), I knew that there were no Fijian-made Drua afloat, but even so, I was surprised and touched to see that the Drua are so much at the core of Fijian identity (and variations throughout the South Pacific) and such a powerful image at the heart of Fijian culture ( the coat of arms and even the telephone boxes are designed around this). The fact that there is no operating example of the vessels and hasn’t been for many years – the Uto ni Yalo follows a Polynesian, not Melanesian design, is something that we are going to work together on.

An integral part of this talanoa is to highlight that fact, create a plan to build one utilising the traditional ways and materials and then to use the vessel to sail, show and teach the traditions, help ignite a sail renaissance in Fiji and beyond and to train and give employment to crew members that will form the core of our sustainable shipping network. Incorporating these traditions, learning from the building techniques, navigation, ownership models and seafaring skills will be all-important in creating a network that will be resilient, sustainable and productive – however it is more than that. Here resides the spirit of voyaging, of seafaring. The South Pacific was the crucible of humanity’s relationship with the oceans. The stories, the songs and the soul of seafaring could be heard and felt in this meeting, and as Bishop Winston Halapua (Archbishop of Polynesia) shared with us, this was “a time to speak our talanoa and hear other’s talanoa.“

There were presentations about sail, how traditional canoes from Kiribati, Vanuatu and joined the Pacific Voyagers on their journey across the Pacific, which will be released as a movie next year. The great message that came across was that the ocean connects and embraces the entire region, but is now seen as a barrier. The sea was once the life blood of the South Pacific islanders, and according to the subtext of what we were hearing, it will be again. Around the kava bowl that afternoon and during drinks and the beautiful dance and song performances that evening at the Oceania Arts Centre, it was decided that new songs will be sung and new stories will be told, as the sail renaissance sweeps across the South Pacific from the smallest village canoes to the largest container and bulk carrying ships – but more of that in my next post.


Sustainable Shipping, Sail Hybrid Ships & the South Pacific: Talanoa – Day 2

Inspired by the huge first day, with images of traditional voyaging, South Pacific culture and the voices of the voyaging crews spurring me on, we came to the big international day of the conference. As Professor John Bythell, vice chancellor for research of University of South Pacific and key supporter of Greenheart and the entire Talanoa agenda had explained during his opening address, this was an ambitious undertaking, with 20 or so international presentations from presenters across the world including Dr. Mark Trexler, a DNV climate risk expert in the US, Dr. Pierre Sames, Vice President of Germanischer Lloyd in Germany to our Greenheart team over in Japan.

The wealth of expertise and insights into the future of shipping in general (increasing regulation, fuel costs), climate risks (sea levels, infrastructure problems) and the opportunities that sail/hybrid innovations bring was very well received among the audience. In fact this was the first time that so many of the major initiatives to build new sail/hybrid ships had presented at the same conference – included B9 shipping (UK), Modern Merchant Sailing Vessel (Germany), Fair Transport (Netherlands), Propelwind (France) and Greenheart (Japan) along with Dykstra designers who designed the Rainbow Warrior III and Maltese Falcon (Dynarig yacht). The overriding impression was that there is a substantial wave of innovation under way, that this is not on the fringe but increasingly will become a mainstream movement away from fossil fuel driven shipping over the coming decade.

And so came the Greenheart team’s opportunity to show the potential of our ships for the region, my attempt at a Fijian language introduction went down well, and after the overview provided to the conference by Peter Schenzle, one of the leading sail hybrid designers and advocates over the last three decades and one of our design consultants, the audience was well primed to listen to what the Greenheart ships can do, how the design has, and will, evolve and where the ships can fit into the South Pacific shipping mix.I got a little carried away with my allotted time, but from the feedback received, the message came over very well. Comparisons with the current vessels operating in the South Pacific were obviously vitally important, comparisons with the recently retired MV Tokelau which has serviced the Apia (Samoa) to Tokelau (N.Z. Protectorate) for many years was an important case in point.
The MV Tokelau burns 3.24tons of diesel per day, leading to a fuel cost alone of US$30,000 per trip, and a subsidy above US$500,000 per year – higher than the cost of a newly built Greenheart vessel, all other parameters are similar, except Greenheart ships carry less passengers in cargo configuration but more cargo and is roll-on/roll-off/container ready.

So, with the case made for sail hybrid shipping to be taken seriously and an outline of a basic pilot network where smaller cargo/passenger, sail/hybrid multi-hulls could feed into larger Greenheart vessels and the possibility for Greenheart ships to be used for research vessels within the USP network, or other applications – the stage was set for the final day of deliberations. While the final discussion was going on, discussing youth and women issues (I am neither), talk around the kava bowl turned to the discussions for the following day, a vision started to develop of a network of sustainable shipping for the whole of the South Pacific, how that could be piloted in Fiji and within the USP regional network of campuses, and in dealing with the question ‘Could the South Pacific lead the world in developing a sustainable shipping network?’, I proposed that the question be re-framed ‘Why wouldn’t the South Pacific lead…..?’, the answer to that particular question would come in loud and clear at the end of the final day of Talanoa.

Talanoa audience

Talanoa – Day 3 Why wouldn’t the South Pacific lead…….?

30 November — Talanoa – Day 3

Why wouldn’t the South Pacific lead…….?

The final day of the talanoa was a chance to really expand upon the theme we had been discussing the previous day, and for us to understand where our plan to build a sustainable shipping network in the South Pacific.

It became clear to everyone there that here is a chance for the South Pacific to really push the envelope and show that sustainable sail hybrid shipping, is not just a pipe dream – a future possibility that we should work towards but an achievable goal. The South Pacific is the most challenging region for conventional shipping – long distances, high fuel costs, small, isolated populations, low cargo volumes, difficult access and a lack of supporting infrastructure. These are the elements that make it ideal for ships that operate without fuel, can be built locally, require little infrastructure and can carry cargo and passengers safely.
By the end of the day and some excellent presentations taking us into the realms of the effects of IMO regulations on the region, Carbon Credit trading, ownership, leadership etc., we started to pull together the strands of the project to move forward.

Four work programs were identified – a traditional boat building project to build and operate a traditional Drua, to be constructed using traditional materials and techniques. Second, the development of a pilot sustainable shipping project – building of at least one Greenheart ship to be operated by USP to link their multiple campuses and research stations around the region and to test potential routes throughout Fiji and the region. This will be linked to the building and operation of 2-3 smaller village run vessels. Thirdly, under the leadership of the SPC and USP, we will draw up a roadmap for a sustainable shipping network for the South Pacific region. Lastly and by no way least, an program that focuses on youth development and women within this network. Building capacity, skills and employment opportunities among these groups is vital to make this a truly sustainable network. It is not just about the ships……

These themes were to be continued for the rest of my stay in Fiji. The sustainable development themes surrounding this network are important considerations and I will talk about those in the next post.

There will be a white paper released in the next few weeks and that will be followed by a donors conference to put together the financial part of the project. Greenheart is already strongly committed to this – and we are developing research programs to tie in with these programs, we are also committed to bringing our first vessel to the region twice during it’s maiden voyage through 2014-2015 and that will be available for testing routes in tandem with vessels built under this project.

We finished the Talanoa with a positive program to take things forward, a great groundswell of support and a lot of new friends. The whole day was rounded off with a brief debate and a few drinks to celebrate at the USP Oceania culture centre – surrounded by that cultural heritage so intertwined with the ocean, it was time to reflect upon the grand undertaking we have embarked upon. The celebration of a great voyaging heritage, joining with the renaissance of sail in the region and building a resilient, sustainable maritime future for the region.

Not a small undertaking I am sure you will agree but a very necessary one. Why wouldn’t the South Pacific lead…….?

A big thank you to all of the presenters and speakers both in Fiji and worldwide, and we hope that you will join us again at the larger 2013 Talanoa and Conference that will be held in October and will once again be hosted by USP.

Many thanks to the sponsors and supporters of the Talanoa, unfortunately I don’t have time to list everyone, but Ali did an amazing job of pulling this together and keeping us (almost) on time, Mata at USP for juggling multiple uplinks and downloads, Colin and Pete for their energy, John at USP for his great support and enthusiasm in hosting the conference, John at SPC for his insights and support and the crew of the Uto ni Yalo and the Econesian Society for their hard work and smiles.

IUCN Oceania Office, WWF South Pacific Programme, Fiji Islands Voyaging Society, B9 Shipping Ltd, Sailing for Sustainability, Econesian Society and AusAid all helped make this Talanoa such a great success.