The Avontuur project lands in Montreal

This year under the Christmas tree, certain presents imported from France just might bear the label “imported by sailboat.”


That’s because they would have made the crossing from La Rochelle, on the west coast of France, to the Port of Montreal aboard a sailing vessel powered by the wind and the sun thanks to its sails, two small wind turbines and solar panels. Not a drop of fuel oil was spent to import these commodities to Canada. They will be certified carbon neutral.

The holds of the Avontuur merchant schooner can carry the equivalent of four cargo containers. Last October, the schooner delivered 6,500 bottles of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne for Quebec’s liquor board, the SAQ, fabric for Cirque du Soleil, clothing for Simons department stores and products by French artisans.

The Avontuur adventure is part of the shipping industry’s effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and overall environmental footprint. Shipping is already by far the least polluting means of transportation compared to air and land. Nevertheless, the international navigation standards promoting respect of the environment are tightening and many actors have decided to play their part, alongside shipowners, terminal operators, port authorities, importers and exporters.

Captain Heiner Max Kucz

Several organizations voluntarily set goals for themselves. For example, in France, the inter-professional committee for champagne wines (CIVC) wants to reduce by 25% the carbon impact of a bottle of champagne by 2025. That led the largest champagne cooperative Nicolas Feuillatte to export its bottles by schooner.

Montreal’s retail company Portfranc Logistique organized the pilot project for the Avontuur, with financial support from the Quebec government. Its mission: provide oil-free onshore and offshore transportation services to accelerate local and transcontinental sustainable transport.  Clément Sabourin, co-founder with Fabien Loszach of Portfranc Logistique, is proud to have dared to take this first step, “There will be more crossings of the Avontuur as we await the super-sailboats.”

A tremendous amount of research is being conducted worldwide to build clean energy ships. One example: a group of former engineers of the French aircraft manufacturer Airbus have developed a flying wing that, attached to a large container ship, would make it possible to save 20% of fuel oil. A solution that is both ecological and economical.

The crew consists of 16 members, six experienced mariners
and 10 trainees, representing seven nations.

These engineers, now at their research companyAirSeas, have a great asset through a technology developed by Airbus: electrical flight controls. Computer modeling enables the computer to anticipate the plane’s reactions. The engineers are working to transfer this technology to the design of its 1,000 m2 sail that will tow the vessels.

An initial test was conducted this fall. Next year, three Airbus vessels that will be transporting sections of aircraft between production sites, will be the first to test the system.

The Avontuur set sail back to Larochelle, France on October 19. Its crew consists of 16 members, six experienced mariners and 10 trainees, representing seven nations: Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Germany and Poland.

The Avontuur is a schooner built in 1920 and completely renovated in 2016. Its homeport is Hamburg, Germany. It takes about 60 days to cross the Atlantic between Larochelle and Montreal, and about 30 days to do the opposite due to the prevailing winds.

Watch the Avontuur set sail for France