Trade winds

A voyage to a sustainable future for shipping

By Christiaan De Beukelaer

Trade winds


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6309-7
  • Pages: 376
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: January 2023
  • BIC Category: Green politics / ecopolitics / environmentalism, Environment, transport and planning law: general, TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Marine & Naval, SCIENCE / Global Warming & Climate Change, TRANSPORTATION / Ships & Shipbuilding / General, Sailing, Business & the environment, 'Green' approaches to business, Lifestyle, sport & leisure / Travel writing, Shipping Industries, Politics, Geography, Travel writing, Ships and boats: general interest


Almost everything you consume, from your weekly shop to the Christmas presents you ordered online, arrived by cargo ship. Shipping is the engine of the world economy, transporting 11 billion tonnes of goods each year. Despite an environmental crisis, shipping emissions have doubled since 1990, producing over one billion tonnes of CO2, more than aviation, more than Germany, even more than France, Britain, and Italy combined.

To understand whether there are any realistic and sustainable alternatives for the industry, Christiaan De Beukelaer spent 150 days covering 14,000 nautical miles on-board the Avontuur, a century old two masted schooner fitted for cargo. Trade winds traces the author's transatlantic journey, which crystallised his thinking on the uncertain future facing the gargantuan machine that is commercial shipping. This book engagingly recounts both this personal odyssey and the journey the shipping industry is embarking on to cut its carbon emissions.


'Trade Winds is an absorbing account of a voyage that starts off as an effort to prove the continuing viability of sail, but becomes far more challenging than expected when the COVID-19 pandemic shuts off all access to the shore. It is also a thoughtful analysis of practical ways for shrinking the carbon footprint of one of the world's most polluting industries - shipping.'
Amitav Ghosh, author of The Nutmeg's Curse

'A truly fascinating account - of a voyage, but also of an idea that is counter-intuitive in a world based on speed, but revelatory for a planet that is going to have to start taking real care of itself. There's a bit of romance here, and a lot of reality.'
Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

This book is both important and beautiful: important, in that it describes one of the best ways we can move into a post-fossil fuels civilization, which is to say by sail; and beautiful, because it shows on every page how this bursting out of the cocoon of heavy oil that we have been living in will return us to a life in the real world, with the wind felt in the hands and on one's face, and every day an adventure. What a joy to read these pages and learn their news.'
Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Ministry for the Future

'Simultaneously engaging and scholarly, Trade Winds combines sailing memoir and environmental analysis to provide important insights about the environmental effects of global shipping and about what plausible alternatives might be. De Beukelaer brings together personal experience with an impressive command of scholarly literatures across history, economics, philosophy, climate science, among many others, and brings them all together in an interdisciplinary tour de force that is realistic and yet ultimately hopeful.'
Elizabeth R. DeSombre, Camilla Chandler Frost Professor of Environmental Studies, Wellesley College

'Scientists, scholars, and sailors have long turned to the ocean to conjure futures that lie just beyond reach. In his dive into the quixotic movement to revive shipping by sail, Christiaan De Beukelaer leaves us wondering which is more of a folly: imagining that sail could once again be a viable technology for transporting goods around the world, or imagining that we can continue practicing business as usual.'
Philip Steinberg, UArctic Chair in Political Geography, Durham University

'Finally a book that delves deeply into the urgent need to decarbonise the shipping industry by connecting political economy and environmental challenges. Christiaan De Beukelaer poignantly describes life day-to-day life aboard a twenty-first century sail cargo vessel in its social and historical context. In doing so, this book raises essential questions about the future of shipping while offering suggestions on how to resolve them. This story of adventure on the high seas sketches a liminal space that will inspire realists and dreamers alike.'
Dr Lucy Gilliam, Senior Shipping Policy Officer, Seas at Risk


Introduction: Annus pandemicus
1 Departure
2 What is wrong with the shipping industry?
3 Crossing the Atlantic: sailing aboard a 21st-century working ship
4 Coffee, rum, and chocolate
5 Point of return
6 The eternal frontier
7 Ship Earth
8 'Mark your head'
9 Sailing home



Christiaan De Beukelaer is a researcher who explores the political ecology of the shipping industry. He works at the University of Melbourne.

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