Q&A with Captain Arjen van der Veen,
co-Founder of Fairtransport Shipping & Trading
Q: What makes you stand out?
A: Each year we sail our ship Tres Hombres twice around the Atlantic ocean using the trade winds. We also operate a ship Nordlys throughout European coastal waters. Our slogan is A to B emission free because our ships have no engines and are powered entirely by wind. Tres Hombres spends 5 months travelling the Atlantic, stopping at harbours along the way to pick up and drop off cargo. It has taken a great deal of time and research to find producers of rum, cocoa and spices in the Caribbean that grow and process their products fairly and with minimal impact on the environment and then build trusting, working relationships with them. But this is what being a pioneer is all about. Being patient and not getting frustrated at the enormity of the challenges. We also transport cargo like wine, which then matures at sea. We ship produce from The Netherlands, England, France and the Canary Islands, to trade in the Caribbean; our vessels don’t travel empty. This has been another challenge – to encourage Caribbean traders to buy European products and not just to import from North America. We are committed to only importing goods to Europe that we can’t produce or manufacture ourselves. We believe in supporting the local food markets in Europe because this is a source of employment for communities.
Q: Why do you care?
A: If we don’t act now, life for future generations is going to be very difficult. We do presentations and spread the word as much as possible, to inspire others to act on their ambitions to change how business is conducted in the food, shipping & logistics industry. People need role models, need to see that it can be done. We all need examples ‘to move’.
Q: Is being responsible good for business?
A: More and more companies are interested in shipping with us because logistics is an area of increasing interest to them. We have developed a whole new market for cleanly-shipped produce and with customers willing to pay a little more for emission-free shipping, retailers stock our goods to stand out from the crowd. Knowing the story behind what you’re eating or drinking also makes it taste better!
Q: Has the business changed you?
A: We started Fairtransport seven years ago and two years in, I had a wake up moment – I don’t know why but I suddenly wanted to do more to support local fruit and vegetable retailers. And although I don’t eat much of it, I wanted to find meat that was locally sourced. I approached my local butcher who was able to tell me exactly where the meat came from.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: There is never a dull moment and changes occur all the time, all around you. It’s amazing to see the wake up, ‘eureka’ moments that people have. One retailer who’s been in the food business more than 20 years said to me one day ‘now I get it, why it’s so important to reduce shipping emissions’. We have to give people hope. Hope that things can change.
Q: Plans for the future?
A: We want to continue working with small and medium-sized retailers but also multinational corporate brands that might be interested in stocking cleanly-shipped ranges. We also want to continue spreading the word – among businesses and the wider public – about the impact shipping has because lots of people simply have no idea. The 16 largest shipping companies globally emit as much pollution as all the cars in the world combined. And by 2050 shipping capacity is likely to increase threefold. Business as usual is not an option. In fact, business as usual is history!