Will sail and solar powered vessels, reminiscent of a historical Pacific voyaging era, dominate Pacific waters once again?
The path is being carved with key stakeholders meeting at the Sustainable Sea Transport for the Pacific workshop in Suva from today (November 28 - 30) to explore a low carbon sea transport future using renewable energy.
The workshop, hosted by the University of the South Pacific and supported by partners including WWF South Pacific is inspired partly by the challenge of suppressing a hefty fuel appetite i.e. transport accounts for the largest energy use, consuming 48 per cent of fossil fuels and protecting the environment with a lower carbon footprint and decreasing ocean pollution.
In stimulating discussions among key stakeholders, the workshop is also a preparatory ground for a major regional conference in 2013, where sea heritage, culture, science, policy and industry will culminate and set a blueprint for the future.
Workshop participants include academics, researchers, the industry that include Ports Authority, ship builders among other non-government organisations like the Pacific Voyaging Societies, governments, regional agencies, funders, community representatives and the media.
The establishment of a working group for the regional conference is an expected outcome of the workshop together with setting a blueprint for a sustainable seafaring future. Presentations and Pacific style talanoa sessions over the three days will centre on key themes—The Past—Sailing, Sea Transport, Innovation and Adaptability, Pacific Seafaring Today: Challenges and Opportunities, and What Course to Steer? An Opportunity to Lead the World. WWF South Pacific is funding the Women and Youth session featuring presentations on seafaring from both gender and generational perspectives. Representative Kesaia Tabunakawai says mapping the future of sustainable shipping for the Pacific is inevitable.
"Pacific islands now stand at a crossroads of development, where in the face of food, climate and environmental crises we need to make decisions that protect our resources and future," Tabunakawai said.
"Setting a new course is imperative for we cannot continue to devour fossil fuels and gullibly assume a ready source is always available. Using renewable energy sources of fuels protects Pacific economies making us less at the mercy of global market forces on fuel prices, it is affordable and clean. Importantly as well are the major inroads we can make in reducing our carbon footprint and protecting our Oceans and natural resources.
"These are the ways of our ancestors, the good ancient paths and knowledge that can be revisited to apply retrofits to modern sailing vessels that make the sea transport sector sustainable.
"Changing the system of doing things within the sea transport sector feeds into the achievement of the Millennium Development goal of ensuring environment sustainability—to imagine the progress that can be made on that front."
Globally, interest in sustainable shipping has given birth to movements like Sailing for Sustainability, the Greenheart Project that has designed a new type of low cost, zero emissions small cargo vessels powered through clean, green energy.