How to start a shipping company II

The legalities are sorted to be a freighter. The next step is to get two things happening: things to transport and something to transport them in. Today we managed to get the second of these processes one step further.

A clean shipping company, sustainable in all ways, will have to take various factors in to account: emissions, social issues, energy issues. Based upon Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” book and the strangely phrased ideas within there, the smallest (and thus most beautiful) business is a person or two.  So our transport vessel must be small, to be handled by one or two people. We have taken ann early 1960s sailing vessel, weighting in at 500 kg, and adapted it for freight. The floor and the floor beams have been made more solid, the sail replaced with a powerful gaff rig. But more importantly, we need back up power for negotiating small corners and adverse currents. The Tres Hombres and the Nordlys fight through with no motor of their own, Grayhound and Avontuur have motors on board to be used when needed. Each has their advantages. We have chosen, because we are not crossing oceans, to go with a very simple solution: electric propulsion.


Finding space for four batteries is not as easy as it should be. Also visible: strong floorboards, floor beams, safety gear. All what a happy surveyor needs.

As has been claimed by many, sometimes the best way to save money is to spend some, we have taken on a 4kW Torqeedo system with four huge batteries. Just shy of 200 kg of high quality deep cycle battery is embedded in the bilges of the boat. The motor brings around 9 HP of power on the propellor, far in excess of what is recommended for this type of boat. But this is a safety issue: on the Danube there is a shoreline within 100m on each side, with barges underway incessantly. There is no room for faffing about with some underpowered solution.

The next stage in this propulsion issue will be finding clean energy sources to re-charge the batteries. But for now we are happy and the engineer who surveyed the vessel has given it a clear thumbs up. This process of getting certification is also not uncomplicated. There are only three ship engineers in Austria entitled to certify vessels, so one must take the effort to find one and get the necessary approvals. Then through the appropriate documents as the state government, a wait of 10-20 days and the papers should be here. Let’s see if that is true.

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