The new cargo ship from the young Morlaix company Grain de Sail made its first loaded transatlantic crossing between Saint-Malo and New York, marking a new stage for the return of sailing freight.

Grain de Sail II measures more than double its predecessor, with 52 meters in length (compared to 24 meters for the first), and can transport up to 350 tonnes of goods, or six times what Grain de Sail, launched early 2021. On board during this first crossing, wine, chocolate, leather goods and other luxury products.

The Grain de Sail company transports cocoa paste and coffee from Pointe-à-Pitre, also by sail, before transforming them to sell them in mainland France or export them to the United States.

90% less CO2 emissions than a conventional cargo ship

In addition to its own products, the company is also a logistics provider for other companies and will therefore bring high-end guitars from New York to its home port, Saint-Malo. The “logistics performance is better than traditional solutions, since we are not in containers” but in pallets, explains Jacques Barreau, general manager, which saves around five days.

The duration at sea is longer than for a conventional cargo ship, at around 15 days, but the saving in terms of CO2 emissions is at least 90%.

As for the bill, “we will sometimes be about twice as expensive, three times as expensive, depending on the courses,” notes Jacques Barreau. “But, sometimes, we are almost equivalent (…), so it’s difficult to give a scale. »

Sea freight by sail, a growing trend

Some conventional merchant ships can transport up to more than 20,000 containers in a single trip, or more than 100,000 tons of cargo. “We are not in gigantism,” emphasizes Jacques Barreau, “but, at least, we are compatible with what the planet is capable of enduring.”

In 2024, Grain de Sail hopes to complete five rotations between Saint-Malo and New York, counting its two ships, with the possibility, once in the United States, of loading in Pointe-à-Pitre before returning to Saint-Malo . The Breton company wants to add three more ships of this type to its fleet within five years to offer transatlantic departures every 15 days.

A unique mode of transport for centuries, sea freight by sail is gradually making a comeback in the logistics offering. In August 2023, the American agricultural raw materials giant Cargill launched a bulk carrier equipped with two rigid metal sails, which can reduce fuel consumption by 30%.